RICHMOND, Va. (Legal Newsline) - Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cynthia D. Kinser has been elected as the next chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

She will be Virginia's 25th chief justice and the first woman to serve in the position.

The Court announced Tuesday at its annual business meeting that Kinser will assume the post in February, replacing current Chief Justice Leroy R. Hassell Sr. of Richmond, who held the job for eight years. Hassell was the state's first black chief justice.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, the state's former attorney general, had nothing but praise for Kinser.

"It is my esteemed honor to congratulate Justice Cynthia D. Kinser on her historic election as the first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia," McDonnell said in a statement released Tuesday.

"Justice Kinser is a widely respected jurist and is well suited to oversee the judicial branch of state government. Justice Kinser has always demonstrated she is a fair minded professional who conducts herself with the utmost integrity and acumen. I have the highest confidence that she will uphold the rule of law and Constitution of Virginia in her new position as chief administrator of the Supreme Court of Virginia and serve the Commonwealth well."

Kinser was appointed to the state's high court by Gov. George Allen, a Republican, in 1997. She has been reelected twice by the state's General Assembly to 12-year terms, including earlier this year, according to The Washington Post.

The chief justice serves a four-year term, and is chosen by vote of the seven justices.

Before joining the state Supreme Court, Kinser served as a U.S. magistrate judge. She also is a former commonwealth's attorney from Lee County, where she currently resides.

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