Delegation Members Continue Push for More Open Judicial Appointments

Three days after conducting public interviews of two candidates for a vacant judgeship in the 20thCircuit Court, Democratic members of Loudoun’s General Assembly Delegation continued to press for a “fair and open” process to fill the seat.

The group, along with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, on Tuesday gathered for a press conference in Richmond where they called for a bi-partisan approach to filling the seat and others in the future.

However, they declined to publicly disclose which candidate they had decided to endorse for the post. Del. David A. Reid (D-32) said “it’s still being discussed.”

Attending the press conference were Reid, Sen. Jennifer Boyso (D-33), and delegates Wendy Gooditis (D-10), John Bell (D-87) and Kathleen J. Murphy (D-34). They focused their remarks on the need to establish a bi-partisan and public review process for judicial candidates.

Under state law, the appointments are made by the General Assembly. Traditionally, the candidates are interviewed and moved to floor vote through the Courts of Justice Committees in the House and Senate. In cases where there is a partisan divide in the recommended candidates, the majority party has a leg up.

The Loudoun representatives fear that scenario is in play with the 20thCircuit appointment after one candidate, Fauquier County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Fisher, was invited by the Republican leadership to address a joint meeting of the courts committees last month. Fisher did not participate in the Loudoun Bar Association’s qualifications review process, which produced two candidates, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Sean Morgan and defense attorney Lorrie Sinclair.

With a stated goal to increase transparency in the selection process, the delegation held public interviews with the candidates on Saturday. However, Fisher did not participate. Also missing were Republican members of Loudoun’s delegation. Del. David LaRock (R-33) issued a statement objecting to the interviews, saying the members were seeking to politicize the selection process.

On Tuesday, the Democrats emphasized their support for a bi-partisan and more open process. Bell said it was important that candidates putting themselves up for consideration have confidence that their qualifications will be fully considered. Boysko said that the public interview process has been used in Fairfax County to fill judicial vacancies for years. Reid said he was attempting to establish a review process not only to fill this vacancy, but to be used as Loudoun’s court grows in the future.

At a minimum, the delegation members said the two other candidates should be presented to the Courts of Justice committees for consideration.

While declining to say which candidate they endorsed, Loudoun County NAACP President Pastor Michelle Thomas was invited to participate in the press conference. Thomas, who has called for  Sinclair, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, to be appointed to the seat, called on the General Assembly to “close the back door” in its selection process.

Fairfax also appeared to give his support to Sinclair, saying “It gets to back to the lack of diversity on the bench in Loudoun County.”

The list of proposed judicial appointments is expected to be presented by the courts committees later this month.

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