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Virginia Court of Appeals set to get six new judges after lawmakers agree to expansion

The Virginia Court of Appeals building in downtown Richmond.
The Virginia Court of Appeals building in downtown Richmond.(Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 3:31 PM EST
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Lawmakers plan to appoint six new judges to the Virginia Court of Appeals later this year as part of a plan to expand the court’s jurisdiction to all civil and criminal cases.

The reform will end Virginia’s status as the only state in the country where there is no guaranteed right to appellate review from the trial court level — a dynamic lawmakers and advocates said can leave judicial errors uncorrected.

“I don’t think we want to continue that unique distinction,” said Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, who proposed the legislation.

The bill passed the General Assembly in the final hours of this year’s legislative session with endorsements from a range of bi-partisan and non-partisan groups, including the Virginia Bar Association and the Judicial Council of Virginia, which is chaired by the Supreme Court of Virginia Chief Justice Donald Lemons.

But it was unanimously opposed by Republican lawmakers, who accused Democrats of using the reform to change the partisan dynamic of the court, which at present is almost entirely composed of GOP appointees.

“This will substantially and significantly change the nature of the court overnight,” said Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle.

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The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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