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Sun Gazette: Legislators Hope to Preserve County Judgeship Print

BY Scott McCaffrey

Created: Friday, July 15, 2011 7:29 AM


Members of Arlington’s legislative delegation will try to protect the county’s court system in the wake of a push at the state level to combine smaller court systems.

“I still fail to see the point of consolidation,” said Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), who took the lead in representing Arlington’s interests before the Judicial Boundary Realignment Study Committee. That task force has been directed by the General Assembly to consider consolidating court services across Virginia.

Hope testified at a July 13 meeting of the committee, held in Fairfax, and pressed the case that Arlington should be allowed to keep the number of Circuit Court judges it currently has.

“My hope is the committee will, at a minimum, allow Arlington to maintain at least three judges,” said Hope, who serves on the House Courts of Justice Committee. “That’s where they are heading, and I hope it continues, but I’m still not clear of what really the long-term vision is for consolidation.”

“If we were to go down to two judges [as was proposed in the 2011 General Assembly session], Arlington’s courts would essentially become a criminal court,” Hope said. “Civil actions would take much longer to get a hearing, the quality of the judicial system would significantly diminish.”

Until February, the 17th Circuit Court (Arlington and Falls Church) had four judges. Since the legislature has imposed a moratorium on replacing judges who depart, the bench was reduced to three when Benjamin Kendrick reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

In December, the court will take another hit, as Judge James Almand will be retiring. At that point, the court will be reduced to two judges - Joanne Alper and Chief Judge William Newman Jr. - to handle cases in Arlington and Falls Church.