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What Can I Do About Judge Vanover, Sandy? Tell your Delegate and Senator to reappoint him – No Matter WHERE you Live in Virginia!

I have found my voice.  Thanks in part to the Dickenson County Board of Supervisors! (Where?  Some of my readers are asking.  Go here for more info and consider visiting Dickenson and environs on your next vacation.)  I am going public with this thing about the refusal of the General Assembly to reappoint the sitting Circuit Court Judge – Henry A. Vanover.

Judge Vanover has served since 2002 and was being appointed to his third or maybe fourth full term in 2018 when it was decided by the delegation he would not be reappointed.

I understand based on my “getting around” and talking to a couple of legal sources in the area (Dickenson is in the far west of Virginia; I go out there for legal conferences and threaten to retire there if they need another attorney!  I am greeted with:  Come!  We need another good lawyer!  And the mountains and mountain people are beautiful!) that this is a political decision by the local delegates and senators to get Judge Vanover off the bench and replace him with another person.

So I decided to take it private:  Contacted my delegate (Peace) and senator (McDougle) and protest the outrage.  [By the way no response other than McDougle’s office assured me the senator would read my email.]  Yes I know the delegates and senators tend to defer to the local delegations and that is right most of the time.  But this seems like pure politics.  A rather lame excuse that the judge was not willing to travel throughout his district.

Now I know this might not sit well but this is the integrity of the process at stake.  A solid judge is being maligned in effect (people will think Judge Vanover did something wrong) because someone wants that spot for another person.

The Dickenson County BOCS said this [from the Coalfield Progress]:

The supervisors’ resolution of appreciation and support of Vanover said the judge has “earned the respect of the members of the bar of Southwest Virginia through his illustrious career as a Circuit Court Judge, dedicated public servant, and attorney serving the people of Southwest Virginia.”


The supervisors’ resolution that that Vanover has had a distinguished career on the bench, noting he has “provided leadership and foresight in creating the Dickenson County Drug Court” and has “exhibited the highest standards of competence, independence, and intellectual prowess.”

The resolution of support says Vanover “has conducted himself in a fair, compassionate and professional manner, treating members of the bar and all before him with fairness and respect.”

The local bar association agreed:

Vanover had popular support and got the unanimous endorsement of the Dickenson County Bar Association for reappointment but not the collective nod of the coalfields delegation to the General Assembly.

And from this radio station [WAXM 93.5FM]:

The Dickenson County Virginia Board Of Supervisors Has Adopted A Resolution That Supports The Re-Election Of Henry Vanover As Circuit Court Judge. Vanover Was Not Re-Elected To The Dickenson Circuit Court Bench By The General Assembly On January 16th When Other Judges Were. County Leaders Believe It’s Important That The Presiding Circuit Court Judge Be A Resident Of The County.

So why does this matter?  it matters a lot.  Why should a veteran lawyer with an established practice, respected by the people, his/her colleagues and the bench give all that up for a four or six year term as judge when you can be ousted for politics.  This will place all the judges subject to the whim of a few delegates and senators.

So what can I do, I don’t live in the far west?  Simple:  ALL the delegates and senators decide who is appointed and reappointed.  Yes it is important to usually follow the will of the local delegations.  BUT all the legislators should hold one another accountable and reject obvious politics.  ALL the delegates and senators are implicated in this.

SO here’s what you do:  Contact your delegate and senator.  Protest this.  I did.  Let them know a sound, independent judiciary is essential for a solid commonwealth.  Stand up for Judge Vanover.  Next time it might be your judge ousted for politics.

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)

5 Responses to “What Can I Do About Judge Vanover, Sandy? Tell your Delegate and Senator to reappoint him – No Matter WHERE you Live in Virginia!”

  1. Galen C. says:

    Former Delegate Frank Hargrove from Hanover County who appointed his son in law to the position of circuit court judge and who was then arrested for DUI and a gun charge in Goochland County is all the reason Virginians need to ELECT JUDGES and stop this nonsensical process whereby the Delegates and State Senators appoint local judges who then line the pockets of the very people who appointed them with lucrative six figure local Commissioner of Account appointments ( Senators Tommy Norment and Ryan McDougle) and state funded guardian ad litem work that is thrown Chris Peace’s way after he appointed the juvenile judge in Hanover County.

    Last year a woman was shot to death in the parking lot of Walmart in Ashland VA and the local “appointed” judge Hugh S. Campbell didn’t think there was enough evidence of a crime to bring charges against the black woman who shot a white woman in her car. It wasn’t until the “elected” Hanover County Commonwealth Attorney Chalkley sat a grand jury that an indictment for murder was handed down recently.

    When Virginians can elect judges, the incompetent like Campbell who think a crime didn’t take place when a black woman shot a white woman to death in a Walmart parking lot while sitting in her car with her groceries will be replaced by judges who run on issues. LIke the promise to prosecute crime.

    • Sandy Sanders

      I appreciate your coming by, Galen C. but your final sentence is exactly why judges should NOT be elected – and they are elected in most states – the election of judges ought to be unconstitutional as violative of Fourteenth Amendment due process. There was a West Virginia judicial election where a judicial decision was actually turned around (temporarily, that transparent effort to elect a judge to influence a particular case was overturned by SCOTUS) by an election. Tort reformers and trial lawyers in Alabama fought with millions of dollars in ads for a crucial seat on that state’s supreme court and that had nothing to do with Justice Roy Moore.

      Now I do believe the present system with better transparency and more time for the people to weigh into the system and process is the best – like Churchill is reported to have said: Democracy is the worst form of government until you consider the alternatives! – potential judgeships ought to be advertised like state jobs and there ought to be public input and debate when a delegation wants to remove a judge.

      Judges are NOT prosecutors. They must rule on the evidence before it. At a preliminary hearing, there is a question before a person can be held for a crime: Is there probable cause that the crime occurred and the person did it. I assume the prosecution for some reason did not persuade Judge Campbell one or both of those elements.

      Now about Judge Alderman, he did make a mistake but he owned up to it and I personally thought the punishment was too severe. But the legislators set the standard and I can respect that.

      Thanks again for coming by and make sure your delegate and senator hears from you in re Judge Vanover.


  2. John D. says:

    Gotta disagree with you Sandy and Agree with Galen.

    The Kilgore Tobacco Fund Mafia and the Republicants voting for medicaid expansion and accepting all the Dominion Pac money who refuse to pass legitimate ethics reform in the Virginia General Assembly will be the DEATH of the narrow Republican Senate majority next year and House of Delegates in 2020. Once the purge is complete a new brand of conservative Republican candidates can run and perhaps be elected in Virginia.

    What the “little people” don’t understand is the roll up effect on GOP elections. The corruption at the local and state level in Republican politics in Virginia will result in voters staying home on election day and then Congressional seats will be lost. The GOP can’t win in Blue VA without the Independent voters.

    But that’s John Whitbeck’s RPV- The Party of Stupid. Stuck on his stupid rant “It’s Trump’s Fault.”


  1. […] County BOCS passing a resolution in support of Judge Vanover and I found my voice and wrote this blog entry. Here is a key […]

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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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