Martinsville City Attorney Eric Monday surprisingly withdrew from consideration for a judgeship in the 21st Judicial District, saying attacks on his candidacy had destroyed his desire to serve.
Monday announced his decision Thursday afternoon in a statement he emailed to the Bulletin, ending a tumultuous week in which he and three colleagues seemed certain to be approved by the General Assembly.
Del. Les Adams (R-Chatham), chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees judicial appointments, had said Tuesday that Monday, District Judge Marcus Brinks and attorneys Kimberly Belongia and Jimmy McGarry had been interviewed and determined capable to replace two retiring judges and fill a new seat in District Court.
“For the last two weeks there has been a well-organized campaign by people grinding very rusty, old axes, to attack my character, professional reputation and competency to be a judge,” Monday wrote in his statement. “This campaign was also designed to tarnish my ‘legitimacy,’ in the event that I was actually selected. It is apparent to me that this campaign has at least partially succeeded.”
He wrote that, as seen last fall in Washington, D.C., judges increasingly are being dragged into the political arena, which horrifies him. He wrote that people have to be assured that judges are fair and impartial.
“The campaign against me,” he said, has reached the point where he believes his selection as a judge could become a partisan political issue, which would not be good for the judicial system.
“I have no desire to continue to subject either me or my family to these attacks,” he said.
Monday’s candidacy for the bench had become a point of public concern based on the votes of the two bar associations that serve the counties in District 21. The Henry County/Martinsville Bar Association and the Patrick County Bar each had held a special vote to address Monday’s candidacy, and the majority of all lawyers voted overwhelmingly that he was not qualified to serve.
Several lawyers said, in addition to opposition expressed by the two bar associations, they understand some members of the public contacted legislators to express their opposition to Monday being elected judge.
Monday said he notified this area’s legislative delegation Thursday morning he was withdrawing. His statement thanked state Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County), Del. Charles Poindexter (R-Franklin County), . Del. Danny Marshall (R-Danville) and Adams for their confidence in him.
“To those who had a hand in this terrible and humiliating experience – I have prayed about this a great deal. It is well with my soul. I forgive you,” he said.
Wren Williams, a member of the Patrick County Bar, stated in an email Thursday: “I would like to thank Senator Stanley and Delegates Adams, Marshall, and Poindexter on behalf of the people of Patrick County, Henry County, and the city of Martinsville. When asked by their constituents not to consider Mr. Eric Monday for this judgeship, our representatives listened, and we are eternally grateful.
“I wish our strong leaders continued success in their thankless endeavors for the betterment of our home and its citizens.”
Awbrey Watts, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Bar Association, said she had “no comment regarding the withdrawal, how the judicial process should proceed, and which candidate should be selected. The Bar Association has sent the legislature its votes regarding each candidate that has submitted his/her name.”
Marshall wrote in an email Thursday after that he was surprised at Monday’s withdrawal. “I got a lot of people who contacted me in support of Mr. Monday,” Marshall wrote.
What happens now? “Another person will need to be interviewed,” he said. “We have not had time to talk about it.”
Stanley’s office emailed a joint statement to the Bulletin that was received Friday morning.
“This morning [Thursday] we were notified that Eric Monday, Esquire has withdrawn his application for consideration to serve as General District Court judge for the 21st Judicial District," the statement said in part. "As previously reported, Mr. Monday appeared at a public hearing of the joint House Judicial Panel and Senate Committee for Courts of Justice where his application was reviewed. He was subsequently certified without objection, and with our concurrence, as qualified for the position by the full House and Senate Courts of Justice Committees, respectively.
“In consideration of his decision today [Thursday], we wish to publically express our appreciation to Mr. Monday for his previous decision to apply for the position and willingness to be considered for service to the judiciary.”
On Oct. 30, the Martinsville-Henry County Bar met and rated candidates who had submitted their names for consideration. Brinks, McGarry and Belongia all received high marks. Monday had not submitted his name.
But at a special meeting on Monday night, 20 members of the bar rated Monday not qualified to serve. Six members voted that he was highly qualified, five found him qualified, and one person abstained, according to an email that was obtained by the Bulletin.
After not voting on Monday’s candidacy at a meeting in October, the Patrick County Bar on Feb. 7 and unanimously approved a resolution finding Monday unqualified. That resolution cited that he had not submitted a resume or otherwise requested consideration by the bar. But it said members were familiar with his record.
Adams had said in an email Tuesday that the selection and appointment of judges “in practice … is accomplished primarily according to the decisions made by the legislative delegations representing the judicial circuits and districts where funded judicial vacancies exist.
“It is commonplace for the members of the delegations to interview candidates and engage in discussions between themselves and with others before arriving at the consensus choice. Many factors are considered, including endorsements or rankings by the local bar associations, which are usually provided to the legislators by the bar presidents.”
He said that the House and Senate Judicial Panel interviewed Brinks, Belongia and Monday on Jan. 25 and certified them as qualified to serve as judge, as well as McGarry, who was interviewed by the panel last year for a newly created General District Court judgeship that was not funded until the budget year to begin July 1, 2019.