General Assembly’s judicial interviews devolve into ‘s***show’

General Assembly’s judicial interviews devolve into ‘s***show’
Virginia General Assembly Building (Source: WHSV)

The General Assembly broke from its staid and often secretive approach to making judicial appointments this week when a hearing to interview candidates devolved into a spectacle that prompted one exasperated senator to let loose a string of expletives.

The General Assembly was interviewing Katie Uston, the former assistant counsel at the Virginia State Bar, for a circuit court judgeship in Alexandria.

The proceedings are typically marked by subdued back-and-forths and softball questions like “why do you want to be a judge?” — with the real work of selecting candidates hammered out in private among lawmakers who represent the given judicial district.

In Uston’s case on Tuesday, however, Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, made clear he believed she was unqualified for the position, launching into a long line of questions probing her expertise in civil and criminal trials. Did she realize law had changed a lot in the decade since she’d last practiced criminal law? (Yes.) Had she ever served as a substitute judge? (No.) Had she ever argued a motion to suppress based on the Fourth Amendment? (No, but as a counsel at the Bar, she was familiar through her work investigating allegations of legal misconduct.)

Lawmakers eventually cut Morrissey off, turning to a public hearing in which three people with longstanding complaints about the judiciary and the state bar spoke, and, at one point, interrogated, Uston.

“She’s privy to all kinds of secret information which she can use against people who come in as litigants or lawyers and people will never know it,” said Rhetta Daniel.

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