No Judge who is corrupt, who condones corruption in others, can possibly remains on the Bench.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lawyers suggest changes in Virginia’s judicial-selection process

Lawyers suggest changes in Virginia’s judicial-selection process
Published: June 7, 2009
Several area lawyers agree that Virginia's method for selecting judges is preferable to a general election, but they suggest there still is room for improvement.
Judges in Virginia are elected by state lawmakers. But that process should be reviewed, said Louisa County Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Rusty McGuire, because a candidate's political loyalty sometimes is given greater weight than his or her experience.
McGuire, who is seeking the Republican nomination in the 55th House of Delegates District, said he has seen judges selected who did not have a background in the type of law they were to preside over.
Richmond criminal-defense attorney Steven Benjamin said judicial selection should be as far removed from politics as possible, and that the process would benefit from greater transparency. He said it might be better to entrust selection to an independent commission.
David P. Baugh, a defense lawyer with the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, suggested it might be best if judges were appointed for life terms, putting them beyond the politics of the re-election process.
"We shouldn't have the legislature second-guessing the discretion of the judiciary," Baugh said. "If they disagree with a judge's logic, then they should become a judge."
McGuire, Benjamin and Baugh agreed that a general election would be an inferior system. It would allow the public to vote a judge off the bench for making a decision that is unpopular but nonetheless the right one, McGuire said.
In Virginia, the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission reviews reports of judicial misconduct, but these investigations are conducted in secret.
McGuire said that is a good thing: The public airing of a frivolous complaint against a judge could prompt the public to unfairly question every other ruling the judge makes.
Benjamin disagreed. "The best antidote to a frivolous complaint is the truth and a public airing," he said, adding: "We do a very bad job of notifying the public about complaints."
Baugh said he has filed complaints about judges to the review commission but received no response, which made him wonder whether members of the commission are "just going through the motions."
"When I get no response, I don't know if they even made any inquiry," Baugh said. "It gives me a sense of futility."

MORE:• Openness, input urged in choosing judgesLawyers suggest changes in judicial-selection processHow states pick judgesVIRGINIA'S COURT SYSTEMIt includes several levels of courts. The geographic scope of judicial districts varies depending on population. Supreme Court : seven justices who serve 12-year terms Court of Appeals : 11 judges who serve eight-year terms Circuit courts in 31 circuits: 157 judges who serve eight-year terms General district courts in 32 districts Juvenile and domestic relations courts in 32 districts DEMOGRAPHICSThere are 414 active judges in Virginia. Here is the breakdown by race and gender.White: 367 Black: 47 Men: 325 Women: 89 SOURCE: Supreme Court of VirginiaINFORMATION ON JUDGES• Find out when a judge is up for re-electionTrack cases and conviction ratesIf you want to lodge a complaint against a judge, contact the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission. "Don't Bother... They totally ignore your Complaint" - The mailing address is P.O. Box 367, Richmond, Va. 23218-0367. • For further information, call (804) 786-6636. All complaints must be in writing, addressed to the commission and signed by the complainant. The writer should include the name of the judge, a detailed description of the judge's alleged misconduct or disability, the names of any witnesses and the writer's address and telephone number. The commission does not accept fax or e-mail complaints.