(AP) Virginia Republicans are signaling their intent to remove Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s pick for the state’s highest court, potentially setting up another rancorous fight between the governor and the GOP-led General Assembly.
House Republicans have not invited Virginia Supreme Court Justice Jane Marum Roush to judicial interviews later this week, effectively blocking any chance of the House voting to confirm her appointment during the 2016 legislative session.
Legislators are scheduled Friday to interview 44 trial judges up for re-election by the Assembly next year. Performance survey results are available for 25 of the candidate judges.
In a statement, House Speaker William J. Howell said Wednesday that House rules require candidates for judgeships to be interviewed before they can be confirmed by the lower chamber. He pointedly referred to Roush’s decision to accept a temporary reappointment by McAuliffe last year after Republicans initially denied her a seat on the high court, a move they say invalidates her position on the bench.
“Justice Roush disqualified herself from service on the court when she accepted an unconstitutional appointment from the governor,” Howell said.
The General Assembly has the final say on judicial appointments and has to confirm the governor’s picks for appointees to stay on the bench.
McAuliffe upset GOP leaders last year by not checking with them before first appointing Roush, which they said was a breach in normal protocol. Republicans blocked Roush’s confirmation during an August special session. But GOP leadership was unable to get enough votes to confirm their preferred candidate, Rossie D. Alston Jr., currently a judge on the Virginia Court of Appeals.
The governor temporarily reappointed Roush following the special session, something GOP lawmakers said he did not have the authority to do.
The fight over the high court vacancy was marked by some of the most bitter clashes to date between McAuliffe and GOP lawmakers. Republicans said McAuliffe was needlessly aloof, while the governor accused Republicans of discriminating against women.
McAuliffe said Wednesday that Roush has done outstanding working during her short term on the high court and deserves to be confirmed.
“Small-minded petty politics sometimes gets in the way of common sense,” he said.
Howell said he believes Alston “remains the most qualified candidate for the current Supreme Court vacancy.”
Roush declined to comment.
— ALAN SUDERMAN, Associated Press