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New judgeship a top priority for Loudoun County

Loudoun County's Board of Supervisors met with the county’s General Assembly delegation and some of its new delegates this week to talk top priorities for the upcoming session.

One of the county’s most pressing initiatives is filling Loudoun’s vacant judgeship position in the 20th District Circuit Court by securing funding in the state’s fiscal 2019-2020 biennial budget.

Earlier this year, funding for a fourth Loudoun judge was approved in the House version of the budget, but not in the Senate's proposal. Funding was later stripped in the final reconciled budget.

“This is everybody’s issue, but this is my issue,” Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said. “We really need someone to carry this legislation, and we’d like to have it supported by every single member of our General Assembly.”

“We have sent letters to the current governor … the governor-elect, I have talked to [Attorney General Mark Herring],” Randall continued. “If you have ears, I have talked to you about this issue, and I have gone down to Richmond multiple times to discuss this issue.”

Since local Judge Burke F. McCahill's retirement at the beginning of this year, the 20th Judicial Circuit, of which Loudoun is a part, has only four working judges. Loudoun’s judges include the Hons. Doug Fleming, Jeanette Irby and Stephen Sincavage – who serve mostly in Loudoun, while the fourth, Chief Judge Jeffrey Parker, works almost exclusively in Fauquier and Rappahannock counties.

But with Loudoun’s population more than doubling in just the last decade, the county’s court docket has been inundated with new cases.

Del. John Bell (D-87th) said he urged the General Assembly earlier this year to fill the vacant judgeship position and warned the state legislature about the negative implications the vacancy would pose on the county.

“I think most of the General Assembly, respectfully, doesn’t understand our growth issues and how being short a judge impacts us,” Bell told supervisors.

Bell said he would continue to try to get the funding necessary in the biennial budget and would add a budget amendment for the position if needed.

In October, county supervisors also sent a letter to outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) urging him to include funding vacant judgeship position in his outgoing biennial budget.

County officials said the position was critical as Loudoun considers establishing a new drug court as part of a multi-system approach to treating substance abuse disorders and improving the county’s criminal justice system.

Loudoun’s plea to its General Assembly members to fill the judgeship vacancy came on the heels of a report by the National Center for State Courts assessing Virginia’s judicial workload assessment for 2017.

County Legislative Liaison Gwen Kennedy pointed out that the report highlighted the need for counties to have at least five judges.

Referring to the report’s workload assessment model, she noted the report found that courts typically should not be over 1.15 of a workload, but also not under .9. She said with four judges the local workload would be at 1.15, but with five judges it would be at .92.

State Sen. Dick Black (R-13th) said Prince William County was also experiencing a similar judicial shortfall to Loudoun County. He suggested all of the General Assembly members representing Loudoun and Prince William counties sign a budget amendment for additional funds for a new judgeship position to “make a point.”

Comments


Are you saying we don’t spend enough on schools, Bob?


So if Richmond is not listening to our Board of Supervisors, especially the Chairwoman, that is not a big vote of confidence for those BoS members.


Please address the REAL FUNDING issue between Loudoun and the State. The state extracts well over $200 million EVERY YEAR from Loudoun’s share of sales tax under the “composite index” regimen which determines Loudoun is too wealthy to get its proportionate share. With this REAL PROBLEM fixed Loudoun can afford its school system, overpasses, paving roads, fixing Route 15 north of Leesburg, judges and even land banking for eventually needed Western Loudoun schools. Let’s focus!
Bob Ohneiser Esq.

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