The House of Delegates nominated Rossie Alston for a seat on the state supreme court. The senate nomination failed, 20-20, with Lt. Gov. Northam breaking the tie with a vote against. Neither house nominated anyone else, so interim appointee Jane Roush is now out of a job, and Virginia has a short-staffed supreme court, with six justices and an empty chair.
Locally, the president of the county bar association, along with nine past presidents, signed a joint letter to the legislature, asking that politics not sully the process.
Because both sides in this dispute have openly acknowledged the fitness and high qualifications of this sitting justice, and because considerations that have nothing to do with this justice appear to be the source of the dispute, her removal from office would be completely unjustified[.]
If you look at the names of the signatories, you will see members of competing political persuasions. This should not be how our legislature sends messages, makes points, or flexes its official muscle.
I’ve met the Republican pick, Judge Alston. He seems like a smart, well spoken, very compassionate man. My personal opinion is that he proclaims a bit more faith in divine guidance than I feel comfortable with in a judge, but that he is nonetheless qualified. But so
is was Justice Roush. Even the Republicans say so. And you can think Republican Senator John Watkins for the fact that his party wasn’t able to do a quick replacement (because he was the only Republican to vote “no,” creating the 20-20 tie that keeps the seat vacant). Watkins is not running for re-election. This means the next senate will have to vote on Roush’s replacement. With the majority now in play, this elevates the issue of how we pick our judges to an election-year issue.
This is a hot mess that should have been avoided. Maybe the governor should have taken more steps to obtain Republican approval (apparently, Dave Albo isn’t good enough). Maybe the majority should have put forth their nominee sooner. In either case, deference to what they call a “highly qualified” judge should have taken precedence over playing political football, and our legislature wasn’t up to that. Call this one a fail for the Democrats, but two fails for the Republicans, with the second one being ongoing until at least next year. (Oh, and, not a fail, but an inexcusable way to treat two decent judges who have no blame to take for any of this, but who are being politically molested and/or exploited, all for the sake of someone else’s agenda.)