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VSB rates candidates for Supreme Court vacancy

Jason Boleman//December 20, 2021

VSB rates candidates for Supreme Court vacancy

Jason Boleman//December 20, 2021//

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A Virginia State Bar committee has reported recommendations to the General Assembly for 15 candidates for a pending vacancy on the Supreme Court of Virginia.

The VSB’s Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee, or JCEC, rated the candidates as “qualified” or “highly qualified” to serve on the high court.

The vacancy on the Supreme Court was created by the retirement of Judge William C. Mims, who announced his retirement on July 28. Mims’ retirement will be effective March 31, 2022, when his term expires.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said Mims has been “the consummate public servant for decades and earned much respect from court observers for his careful, meticulous, fair approach to every appeal that the justices resolved.”

The evaluations were conducted in November, with the VSB sending the results via letter to Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, and Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria.

Eight of the candidates were evaluated by the JCEC earlier this year by for openings on the Virginia Court of Appeals. Six of those candidates elected to carry those evaluation results forward, rather than undergo evaluation again.

The 10 candidates recommended as “highly qualified” by the JCEC, along with vote count and the date the JCEC provided the recommendation, are:

  • Fairfax Circuit Judge David Bernhard (13-0, 2021 for COA)
  • Midlothian attorney Tillman J. Breckenridge (8-6, 2021)
  • Roanoke Circuit Judge David B. Carson (14-0, 2021)
  • Salem Circuit Judge J. Christopher Clemens (13-1, 2021 for COA)
  • Loudoun Circuit Judge Douglas L. Fleming Jr. (13-1, 2021 for COA)
  • Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Frank Friedman (11-0, 2021 for COA)
  • Virginia Beach Circuit Judge David W. Lannetti (14-0, 2021)
  • Supreme Court Chief Staff Attorney K. Lorraine Lord (12-1, 2021 for COA)
  • Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Mary B. Malveaux (14-0, 2021)
  • Fairfax Circuit Judge Thomas P. Mann (14-0, 2021)

The five candidates recommended as “qualified” by the JCEC, along with vote count and the date the JCEC provided the recommendation, are:

  • College of William & Mary law professor Jennifer R. Franklin (11-0, 2021 for COA)
  • Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Glen A. Huff (10-0, 2011)
  • Richmond attorney Robert W. Loftin (14-0, 2021)
  • Stafford Circuit Judge Victoria A.B. Willis (10-2, 2021)
  • Virginia Indigent Defense Commission counsel Catherine French Zagurskie (12-2, 2021)

Process reopened

The VSB announced last month that it had been asked to reopen the process for candidates to be evaluated for Mims’ seat.

Per a release from the bar, candidates can submit a resume, a writing sample and a completed questionnaire to [email protected] to indicate their interest in the pending vacancy. Completed applications must be submitted by 4 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2022, with the bar planning to conduct interviews on Feb. 16, 2022.

Applicants are also asked to submit materials to eight other statewide bar groups that are participating in the evaluations. The complete list of bar groups is available on the VSB website.

Candidates who were evaluated during the November round of interviews are considered part of the pool who already applied and do not need to apply again, according to the VSB.

Mims’ seat on the bench will be filled by the 2022 General Assembly, which will undergo a transition of power following last month’s election. The Republican Party regained control of the House of Delegates following the election and will hold a 52-48 majority in the chamber once the General Assembly convenes in the winter.

The state senate was not up for election in 2021, meaning Democrats will maintain their 21-19 majority in the chamber in the 2022 General Assembly session.

The Supreme Court vacancy is one of several open judgeships the General Assembly will be tasked with filling in 2022. Because of the shuffling of judges following numerous judicial appointments during the August 2021 special session, the legislature will need to fill vacancies across Virginia’s lower courts.

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