While the nomination of Alexander N. Levay to fill the vacant Loudoun Circuit Court judgeship continues to enjoy strong support, there might not be a seat for him to fill.
The versions of the budget bills unveiled in the General Assembly on Friday targeted Loudoun’s vacant bench seat as a source of savings, as state leaders look for budget cuts. In that version, funding for the seat would be eliminated, with a citation that workload data did not justify the need for the fourth Loudoun judge.
Loudoun’s legal community pushed for several years to create the fourth bench seat because of the circuit’s heavy and complex caseload, finally gaining approval in 2015.
In January, Judge Burke F. McCahill retired, creating the vacancy. The possibility of losing a full-time judge in the circuit surprised area legislators.
Del. J. Randall Minchew (R-10) credited Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-32) with quickly addressing the concern. Greason, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, worked over the weekend to secure an amendment that will allow the vacancy to be filled effective July 1. However, the Senate bill still leaves the seat unfunded, meaning the fate of the position rests in the budget conference committee.
Minchew said losing the funding would be a big blow for the county.
“This would have been a major hit on Loudoun’s judiciary and would have been the death knell in any chance of establishing a remedial drug court in Loudoun,” Minchew wrote in an email Sunday.
Attorney and Leesburg Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-33) agreed.
“I think that there was a lot of scrambling around to try to fund things like teacher raises and state employee raises, and they were pulling money from wherever they thought it would be,” Wexton said. “With an open seat, that seemed like a very tempting thing to do, but again, the need is there.”
Minchew noted that reports collected by the Supreme Court of Virginia show that the workload in the 20th Judicial Circuit that includes Loudoun continues to trend upward, demonstrating a need to maintain the seat.
Levay, who was overwhelming endorsed for the judgeship by the Loudoun Bar Association, traveled to Richmond last week to meet with legislators who are expected to vote on the appointment—if a position is funded—within the next few weeks. If the budget amendment is approved, the seat could be filled on July 1.