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Sun Gazette: Legislative Delegation Settles on Pick for New District Court Judge Print


Created:  Tuesday, December 18, 2012  5:00AM


The Arlington delegation to the General Assembly has settled on its choice to succeed retiring General District Court Judge Karen Henenberg.

Fran O'Brien, currently a senior assistant commonwealth's attorney, will be the delegation's candidate to go before the General Assembly during the 2013 session. If elected to the judgeship by the state Senate and House of Delegates, she will serve a six-year term.

O'Brien was chosen from among candidates who submitted their names to the Arlington County Bar Association, which interviewed the prospects and forwarded its recommendations to the seven-member delegation for further review.

"The delegation was thoroughly impressed with all the candidates," said Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th). "It didn't make our job easy, but Fran O'Brien's background and experience impressed us the most."

O'Brien was appointed an assistant commonwealth's attorney in 1996, and has prosecuted cases ranging from traffic offenses to murders. She also serves as the office's liaison to the Falls Church Police Department.

"She will make an outstanding judge," Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos predicted. "She has the dedication, temperament and good humor to serve the citizens of Arlington County and the city of Falls Church. I can't think of a better candidate, and while her elevation is a big loss for our office, it's a wonderful addition to the bench."

O'Brien also has served as an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore County, Md., and worked in private practice. She also has been active in the Arlington County Bar Association.

O'Brien and her husband, Stephen Flott, have three children. In the community, she has been active in youth basketball and soccer, and at St. Agnes Church and its school.

Henenberg several months ago announced plans to retire next February, leaving a vacancy on the three-judge General District Court. It will be up to the General Assembly to decide whether to fund the vacancy, and whether to provide the funding immediately or wait until the start of the state government's fiscal year next July.

The latter course was the one taken in the 2012 session, when state lawmakers elected Dan Fiore II and Louise DiMatteo to fill vacancies on the Circuit Court. Each took to the bench in July with the start of the fiscal year.

Hope said he and colleagues "remain hopeful" that the General Assembly will fund the position.