UPDATE ON CHIEF JUSTICE LEMONS’S ANNOUNCEMENT
(Posted December 22, 2021) On Monday, I reported on the press release from the Supreme Court announcing that Chief Justice Don Lemons will step aside at the end of the year, making way for the next chief justice, Bernard Goodwyn of Chesapeake. In that report, I mentioned that the current chief wasn’t leaving the court; just the center chair.
The other shoe has dropped. I’ve just learned that Chief Justice Lemons has notified the Governor of his retirement from the court, effective February 1, 2022. This means that the next session of the General Assembly will choose two new justices – this impending vacancy, and another new jurist to succeed Justice Bill Mims, who isn’t seeking another term.
As I mentioned Monday, the divided control of the legislature means that the two parties will have to agree on candidates for the seats. Our judicial-selection setup requires that judges be elected by both chambers of the legislature. That means that the Democratic-controlled Senate and the new Republican majority in the House of Delegates will have some conferring to do.
This will truly be the end of an era. The current chief is the last remaining justice appointed in the Twentieth Century, as he joined the court in 2000. If you’ve met him, you’ll know that he’s an extraordinarily gracious person. If you’ve followed his career, you’ll respect his commitment to the professionalism of our guild.
I’m grateful to Mark Bowes of the Richmond Times-Dispatch for this information. His story on the chief’s decision is here.