(Posted July 28, 2021) Paul Fletcher of Virginia Lawyers Weekly has just broken the story that Justice Bill Mims of the Supreme Court of Virginia will step down from the court next year. The justice, who turns 65 next summer, wants to pursue other things after a very lengthy career of public service in all three branches of Virginia government. (Let’s just say that he has plenty of credits in the Virginia Retirement System.)

As usual, I’m not going to list here the many career milestones of the former legislator and Attorney General. You can find that elsewhere. My take on him is that he’s an unfailingly polite jurist with a devilish sense of humor, and is absolutely delightful in private conversation. I’ve spoken with him at bar functions and have always come away with a smile. He is, however, a bulldog questioner; if he senses that a lawyer is being evasive with a tough question, he won’t let go.

One technical point about this timing: Because his current term ends about three months before his 65th birthday, there will be a short period in which he isn’t able to serve as a senior justice. He would be eligible to do so after he turns 65. But eligible doesn’t mean will, and Paul’s story doesn’t indicate whether Justice Mims will choose to continue to serve the court in this fashion.

The number of pending and foreseeable judicial vacancies in Virginia’s appellate courts is almost unparalleled in the Commonwealth’s history. The only year like one this was 1984, when the legislature got to choose ten judges of the brand-new Court of Appeals of Virginia (birthdate January 1, 1985). In the next several months, the General Assembly will select seven new CAV judges plus Justice Mims’ successor. In 2023, Chief Justice Don Lemons will face a mandatory retirement, as will a couple more judges from the CAV. And if the legislature promotes lower-court judges to those seats, there will be even more robes to hand out. I’ve previously opined that it’s a good time to be an appellate lawyer in Virginia, with all the new hires in the very near future; it also seems to be a good time to be a judicial candidate.