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Bill to add judgeships advances

The Senate Finance Committee has given approval to a bill to shuffle Virginia trial court judgeships in accordance with last year’s caseload study.

Senate Bill 443 represents a trimmed down version of the recommendations from the study performed by the National Center for State Courts. Instead of 429 trial court judgeships, the bill and a companion budget proposal contemplate 402 funded bench seats.

There are about 360 filled trial court judgeships now.

The price tag for expanding the ranks of judges under the bill is $3.9 million a year.

Virginia Bar Association board chairman James P. Guy II spoke in favor of the bill Wednesday, according to the Daily Press.

Under the proposal, some regions, including the Fredericksburg area and Newport News, would gain additional judges while other areas, including Hampton, Portsmouth and Suffolk, would lose judgeships.

Committee members reportedly resisted an effort by Sen. John S. Edwards, D-Roanoke, to add an additional juvenile and domestic relations judge for the Roanoke Valley. Sen. Thomas K. Norment warned that others would try to add special additions for their localities.

“We’re going to start a stampede here,” Norment said, according to the paper.

In the meantime, a House committee has given approval to the proposal to revive the Judicial Performance Evaluation program where lawyers rate judges on survey forms.

The bill to reinstate the program cleared the House Appropriations Committee.

“It will be implemented if it is funded. We are one step closer to that happening,” said sponsor Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond.

Correction: James Guy’s title was corrected Feb. 6 to show him as VBA board chairman.

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