Virginia Court of Appeals Judge William G. Petty will retire later this year, which opened the eighth vacancy on the court that the General Assembly filled on Aug. 10.
Petty’s retirement will be effective in November, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Petty, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 73 next year, has served on the Court of Appeals since 2006. He is currently the second-longest tenured judge on the Court of Appeals, behind Judge Robert Humphreys. His current term was scheduled to expire in March 2022.
Prior to his time on the bench, Petty served eight terms as Lynchburg commonwealth’s attorney. Petty first ran as an independent, but began running as a Republican in 1997. He left the position to join the Court of Appeals in 2006. While serving in this role, Petty served a stint as president of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys.
Born in Santa Monica, California, Petty earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the College of William and Mary. Upon graduating law school in 1974, Petty worked briefly in private practice in Abingdon.
During his decades-long legal career, Petty has served on the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission and the Virginia State Crime Commission. Petty also chaired the Virginia State Bar Legal Ethics Committee and the bar’s Criminal Law Section, in addition to serving as a faculty member of the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina.
Petty’s announcement opened an eighth vacancy to be filled on the Virginia Court of Appeals, which is undergoing a transitional period in the court’s history. The eight pending vacancies are the most to be filled in a single General Assembly session since the court was created in the 1980s. Additionally, recent legislation provides an appeal of right in every civil case, which expands the jurisdiction of the court.
The Court of Appeals will add six new judges after the General Assembly approved a plan to expand the court from 11 to 17 justices earlier this year. The proposal was passed on party lines, with Republicans expressing concerns over the influx of new judges dramatically altering the makeup of the court.
In addition to Petty’s seat, the General Assembly still has to fill the vacant seat of now-U.S. District Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr., who left the Court of Appeals in 2019.
The General Assembly began a special session on Aug. 2 with filling the vacant judgeships named as a top priority. As of Aug. 4, there is no word on when the new judges will be named or who the frontrunners are for the open seats.
The Virginia State Bar reported 45 candidates as “qualified” or “highly qualified” in July for the Court of Appeals vacancies. The list of names includes current judges, attorneys, prosecutors and law professors.