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Fairfax hoping for added general district judge

After two legislative votes this month, it appears Fairfax County could finally get an additional general district judge in 2020. Judges there have argued for more than a year that their court deserves special attention.

“We are the busiest court by far in the commonwealth of Virginia,” said Fairfax County General District Judge Manuel A. Capsalis, addressing delegates on Jan. 15.

“The caseload in Fairfax is 37% higher than the average caseload per judge statewide,” Chief Judge Lisa A. Mayne told a Senate committee.

“Our first available trial date for a blood docket case for a DWI, if you came in today, I could give you a trial date in August,” Mayne said. “It hardly seems fair that a defendant should have to remain under the auspices of a criminal charge for that long or that a law enforcement officer would have to testify about something that happened over a year ago.”

An assistant county attorney from Fairfax said he sought court dates in September and the first dates he could get were in April.

Adding the 12th judge would mark an exception to the formula approved in 2017 for allotting judgeships. The Committee on District Courts recognized special needs of the Fairfax court and approved the extra judgeship in 2018, supporters said.

Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, said money to create a 12th judgeship was not included in last year’s budget, but should be approved this year.

“The money is in Gov. Northam’s budget,” Petersen told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 209 to create the 12th general district judgeship cleared the Judiciary Committee

14-0 and was re-referred to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. A House bill to the same effect – HB 275 – was recommended by the House Courts criminal subcommittee by a vote of 7-1.