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Search for new judge on hold
Until General Assembly reconvenes

Friday, February 22, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The General Assembly apparently will postpone appointing a successor to retiring Judge Junius Warren until it reconvenes in about six weeks.

Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, said Thursday that this is his understanding based on information he received from Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, who is on the House Courts of Justice Committee.

The regular legislative session is supposed to end Saturday. Lawmakers will reconvene on April 3 to consider any amendments and vetoes that Gov. Bob McDonnell puts forth toward legislation approved in the regular session.

Because lawmakers are preoccupied with transportation and education bills right now, the Senate does not want to consider the judgeship in the current session, Marshall said based on what Cline told him.

Janine Jacob, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Bar Association, said she had heard basically the same thing.

Marshall said he and lawmakers representing the 21st Judicial District have not yet met to decide on the judgeship candidates they want to interview.

The lawmakers also include Del. Don Merricks of Pittsylvania County and Del. Charles Poindexter and state Sen. Bill Stanley, both of Franklin County. All are Republicans.

Because the Senate wants to postpone considering the judgeship, Marshall said the local lawmakers probably will not meet until at least April 2.

Six candidates have expressed interest in the post and have been ranked by 40 members of the bar association.

Martinsville lawyer Kimberly Belongia received a total of 39 “highly qualified” and “qualified” votes. Patrick County Attorney Alan Black received a total of 32, followed by Henry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Bob Bushnell with 31, Patrick County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Marcus Brinks with 29, Henry County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Wayne Withers Jr. with 17 and Martinsville lawyer Timothy Halpin with 15.

Ultimately, the House and Senate must approve a new judge, based on recommendations of area lawmakers and the local bar association.

Warren recently announced he will retire effective April 1. He has been a juvenile and domestic relations court judge for about 30 years.

Jacob said she thinks the General Assembly waiting to appoint a new judge after Warren retires should not pose a problem to the court.

Retired judges and local lawyers who are certified as substitute judges can try cases in the meantime, Jacob said. Also, judges from other areas can be brought to Martinsville-Henry County if needed, she said.

Warren himself could serve temporarily beginning a month after he retires, Jacob said to her understanding.


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