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Virginia Bar Association urges funding to fill vacancies

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The Virginia Bar Association is urging the General Assembly to keep money in the state budget to fill judicial vacancies .

The Richmond-based VBA, the state largest voluntary legal association, says 48 judgeships are currently vacant with another 16 judges expected to retire in 2013.

“We firmly believe that unfilled judicial vacancies, and the resulting case overload in our courts, creates a severe detriment to the sound and efficient administration of justice in the commonwealth and restricts access to justice by our citizens,” Hugh M. Fain III, president of the VBA, said in a statement.

The number of unfilled judicial positions has climbed in recent years because of a hiring freeze in 2010, a series of budget cutbacks and a mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges, the VBA said. As a result, the caseloads of some judges is double the state average, according to association.

The House of Delegates has approved a budget bill that proposes hiring 32 more judges, but it was rejected in the Senate. The Senate budget bill, adding 10 more judges, was defeated.

“We were pleased to see that versions of the budget proposed in both houses of the General Assembly included funding to fill judicial vacancies unfunded in previous budgets,” Fain said. “The VBA encourages both the House and Senate to continue to work to develop a budget that will fill as many vacancies as possible.

“We also encourage our legislators to consider the available caseload statistics during their deliberations and to fill vacancies in those jurisdictions where the courts are handling caseloads significantly in excess of normal capacity,” Fain said.


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