MORE DEVELOPMENTS ON VACANT BENCHES[Posted October 8, 2008] The Governor has appointed three new circuit court judges in Norfolk, part of a reported agreement among legislators to break an impasse over appointments here in Tidewater. The new jurists, as I mentioned in an earlier post, are GDC Judge Lou Sherman, JDR Judge Jerrauld Jones, and Commonwealth’s Attorney Jack Doyle. Their continued service in their new positions after next February is not certain, but appears reasonably likely, given the report in this morning’s Virginian-Pilot . The story also reports that lawmakers have agreed to elect Virginia Beach City Attorney Les Lilley to an open seat on that city’s circuit court during the regular session.
This is welcome news, and will be more welcome if it signals a prospective agreement to reelect Virginia’s two newest appellate jurists, Supreme Court Justice Lee Millette and CAV Judge Cleo Powell. Their gubernatorial appointments, like those of the new Norfolk jurists, expire in early February unless they are elected by the legislature.
On another front, the Fourth Circuit has lost one of its senior judges, as William Wilkins has joined a law firm in the Carolinas. Judge Wilkins has been on senior status for a bit over a year, and has handled a reduced caseload during that time. The Fourth received a welcome boost when former Supreme Court Justice Steve Agee moved across Capitol Square earlier this year, but now the net effect of that speedy appointment has been cut roughly in half, as Judge Wilkins will no longer be able to partially ease the court’s workload. Four seats on the court remain vacant, and assuredly will remain so until after the next president is inaugurated in January. One trickle-down aspect of the long impasse over the remaining seats is that it will increase the demands on district judges, who are often called upon to sit in the Fourth Circuit by designation.