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The front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch confirmed my worst fears: 


I had feared as such and even tried to find a face-saving way to restore the money for the judiciary:  Partisan politics.  I argued we need to use this time to appoint qualified Republican judges.  But no action was taken.  I still agree.  Where do we get the farm team for the appellate bench if we do not fill the openings we have?  (Not that all appellate judges should have prior judicial experience but it is a big plus in the eyes of those making that decision.)

Now action MUST be taken.  Not because of partisan spoils but because the good of the Commonwealth requires it.  The Times-Dispatch reports that thirty unfilled judgeships are pending and possibly as many as fifty only to save slightly over $11 million dollars.  It affects the entire state:

Just about every judicial district affected by the freeze will feel some pain.  Despite stop gap measures, there’s simply not enough momney to fully fund each locality’s needs.

But why not find the money?  I can and usually do quarrel with many fundings of government.  But the administration of justice is essential to good government.  Essential to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.   The Times-Dispatch asserts:

If some localities don’t get any help or funds to pay substitute or retired judges to fill the gap — as the state currently provides — some courts will have to curtail operations or expand the caseloads of existing judges — in some cases dramatically.

This is outrageous and dangerous.  Much like the forensic lab analyst issue I wrote at this blog last year, the administration of justice requires whatever it takes to reasonably keep it running.  I am not calling for solid gold bathrooms for the judges; I call for the minimum required to run it effectively.  A tired, overworked judge can make mistakes.  He or she is only human.  But mistakes in the administration of justice cannot be tolerated. 

We need to find the $11 million dollars or raise it.  One possible method might be higher fees in civil cases and perhaps also in criminal/traffic court costs.  There could also be a split recovery between the state and the plaintiff in punitive damage cases. 

Hence, a special session seems necessary to find the funding source and fully fund the judges.  If it benefits the Republican Party so be it.  If Planned Parenthood loses out, so be it, too.  But it needs to be done right away.  I urge Governor McDonnell to call the special session to fully fund the judges.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)


  1. Elwood "Sandy" Sanders

    This is my 50th blog entry\



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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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