RICHMOND, Va. (Legal Newsline) - Virginia’s top lawmakers -- both Republicans -- said over the weekend they will not support Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s choice for a seat on the state Supreme Court.
Instead, Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William Howell and Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment Jr. said Sunday they and “their respective caucuses” will support Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. for a vacancy on the state’s high court.
“The Constitution of Virginia vests the authority to elect judges with the General Assembly. Although Governor McAuliffe has designated a different candidate, who is also highly qualified, a consensus has developed among the members of the Senate Republican Caucus that Judge Alston should fill this vacancy,” Norment said.
“As a result, I expect Judge Alston will be elected to the Virginia Supreme Court during the special session.”
Last week, McAuliffe, a Democrat, selected Jane Marum Roush, a longtime judge for the Fairfax County Circuit Court, to fill the open seat that has been left behind by retiring Justice LeRoy Millette Jr.
Millette, who announced his retirement in April, officially stepped down Friday.
McAuliffe called Roush “highly respected.”
“Over 22 years on the bench Judge Roush has developed a statewide reputation for fairness, thoughtfulness and a proven ability to handle complex and high-profile cases,” the governor said.
“The support she has earned from a bipartisan group of legislators, bar associations, public safety professionals and many others is a clear sign that she is the right choice to carry on Justice Millette’s sterling legacy as the next justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia.”
Since 1993, Roush has served as a judge on the Circuit Court for the 19th Judicial District for Fairfax County and City.
She was chosen for the circuit court post through a bipartisan General Assembly judicial selection process, and she has been re-elected through the same process.
Prior to her time on the court, Roush served as an attorney in Fairfax County.
Alston has served on the Court of Appeals since 2009.
He was elected as a juvenile and domestic relations court judge for Prince William County in 1998 and was elevated to the circuit court in 2001. He served as chief judge of the Prince William Circuit Court from 2007 until his election to the appellate court.
Howell and Norment noted that the Old Dominion Bar Association rated Alston “highly qualified and recommended” for the Supreme Court, while the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association rated him “highly qualified.”
He also was endorsed by the Virginia Bar Association and the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys, the lawmakers said.
“Judge Alston has the experience to be an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court of Virginia,” Howell said. “While several great candidates were considered, Judge Alston’s experience on the Court of Appeals and his service as a chief judge for the 31st Circuit make him ideally suited for this vacancy.”
He continued, “Judge Alston has earned widespread support in the House, and it is our intention to elect him when the special session convenes.”
Normally, appointing new justices to the Supreme Court is a task of the General Assembly; however, the Virginia Constitution allows the governor to fill vacancies on state courts when the legislature is not in session.
Lawmakers will consider the appointments when they convene for a special session later this month.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at email@example.com.