There are Lovettsville residents with cases in court, complaining that it takes too long to get their day in court.
The relevant jurisdiction is the 20th Judicial Circuit that covers Loudoun, Rappahannock and Fauquier Counties.
This Circuit Court has suffered a succession of judicial vacancies that has caused cases to back up, be delayed, not get heard, or to get heard very slowly; there simply haven’t been enough judges to handle the caseload; those who have to go to court are frustrated.
They live the uncertainty, wonder at the elusive outcome of a case, pay fees, and cost, still waiting for that final answer – the disposition in their cases.
They slowly adopt the view that any justice is a coincidence of the system, not a consequence of it. That is an unfortunate observation but well justified.
In how many professions do you schedule more than one matter at the same time?
In court, there may be several matters scheduled at the same time.
Effective January 1, 2017, Circuit Judge Burke F. McCahill retired. Judge McCahill’s seat has remained open since that date. Worse, the General Assembly didn’t fund the seat, so that someone could replace Judge McCahill; by any measure, this was quite irresponsible, that the legislature couldn’t find the funds to fill a vacancy.
Of course, some believe that fewer courts mean fewer cases, and there are those who, when rightly sued, celebrate the congestion that denies litigants a remedy to right their wrong.
Nor can one overlook the politics of judicial appointments, whether made timely or delayed.
In some states, judges run to be elected.
In others, they are appointed.
In Virginia, the General Assembly appoints the judges. Article VI of the Virginia Constitution provides that judges are elected by a majority vote of the Virginia General Assembly.
The concern of a legislative appointment is that it will have more to do with partisan preferences than who may be the best judicial officer to fill a vacancy.
The Republicans have the edge in the current General Assembly.
This past Saturday, two prospective judges attended a judicial forum that, in the end, will cut into that backlog, as it is a part of the process to fill McCahill’s seat.
A third prospective judge, however, did not attend the forum; more on that in a moment.
The two judicial nominees, prospective judges, for the Circuit Court, were both highly regarded by the Loudoun County Bar Association.
Lorrie Sinclair was, however, favored by the local bar association by a factor of about 2-1 over Sean Morgan.
Both made presentations this past Saturday that revealed how they care about the law and why they seek to serve the public, and how they’d go about it if appointed to serve.
Then there is that other “contender,” Jim Fisher, from Fauquier County; he failed to show to say why he should be the newly appointed judge.
The idea for the forum was a good one; elected delegates convened a hearing to question the nominees so the elected officials could consider whom to recommend to the General Assembly.
What does it say that not a single Republican elected official attended to question the prospective judges?
What does it say that this third potential judge, Mr. Fisher, did not appear for the vetting process.
Mr. Fisher did not participate in the Loudoun Bar Association screening either; and he had notice of the nomination process.
This failure to participate gives Mr. Fisher’s participation the feel of a back room partisan preference; it’s not transparent; it sends a bad signal to the public, and may be especially discomforting to present and future litigants.