The judicial system in Virginia comprises of 3 levels of courts namely; the appellate, trial, as well as the limited jurisdiction courts. It ought to be noted that these levels comprise of 5 jurisdictionally separate courts namely: the Supreme Court, the circuit courts, the Court of Appeals, the general district courts, as well as the juvenile and domestic relations district courts. There are 10 Court of Appeals judges who serve for 8 year terms, while the Supreme Court comprises of 7 justices who serve for 12 year terms. At the circuit courts, the judges serve for 8 year terms, while the general district courts judges, as well as, the juvenile and domestic relations courts judges serve for 6-year terms (Office of the Executive Secretary, 2009).
In Virginia, judges are chosen for the bench through a legislative election process. The judicial appointment process starts when an opening takes place in the judiciary or in the event that the General Assembly creates a new seat. The Supreme Court, appellate and circuit levels, as well as the Committee on District Courts at the district level, offer advice to the General Assembly regarding the appropriate time for recruitment based principally upon caseload data. The Supreme Court certification of vacancies that come up in the appellate courts and circuit court is not binding in relation to the General Assembly. On the other hand, certification of vacancies in the district court by the Committee on District Courts is necessary before filling of any position in the district courts (Office of the Executive Secretary, 2009).
Upon certification of the opening by the right body, the Senate and House Committees for Courts of Justice commence accepting nominations from the General Assembly members. As a rule, however, the majority of the General Assembly members do not participate directly in the nomination process in the local bars’ associations. Many associations of the local bar have unofficial procedures for assessing judicial candidates for reference to the General Assembly. In several occasions, several delegations have opted for local screening committees that comprise of citizens, attorneys, as well as local officials. These committees evaluate the qualifications of the candidates and advise the delegation concerning the finest qualified persons (Office of the Executive Secretary, 2009).
Qualifications of the Candidates
According to Article VI, Section 7, that stipulates that, the Supreme Court justices, as well as the judges of courts of record, ought to have been members of the Commonwealth bar, 5 years as a minimum, prior to their appointment or election. Names of the candidates are subsequently submitted by members of the General Assembly to the Senate and House Committees for Courts of Justice. The Committees determine the suitability of each individual, for the judgeship they seek. The Senate and House Committees do not make any determination concerning the rank of any candidate. These committees only determine whether a candidate is qualified or otherwise (Office of the Executive Secretary, 2009).
Subsequent to the determination of qualification by the Courts Committees, a report that lists the qualified candidates is availed to the General Assembly. Consequently, the Senate and the House of Delegates vote independently, under a technical resolution. The candidate that receives the majority votes receives the new seat (Office of the Executive Secretary, 2009).
Judicial Removal from Office in Virginia
Judges in Virginia can be removed from office in any of the two ways below:
- The judicial inquiry and review commission scrutinizes grievances of judicial misdemeanors or serious physical or mental disability that may interfere with the duties of a judge. The commission can conduct hearings as well as compile evidence to decide whether the charges would be substantial. In the event that the commission finds that the charges are significant, a formal grievance would be filed with the Supreme Court. Subsequently, the Supreme Court might dismiss the grievance or it may censure, retire, or, remove the affected judge from office.
- The House of Delegates might impeach a Judge, while the senate may remove a judge through a two thirds vote (Office of the Executive Secretary, 2009).
Qualifications, Selection Process, and Removal from Office for Judges in West Virginia
The judiciary in the State of West Virginia comprises of a Supreme Court of Appeals, magistrates court, family court, circuit court, and the municipal courts. Except for the judges of the municipal court, whose method of appointment differs by municipality, judges are appointed through partisan elections in West Virginia since 1862. The House of Delegates in West Virginia may impeach Judges, while the senate may remove judges through a two-thirds vote. Any State officer including the judges can be impeached as well as removed from office for corruption, maladministration, neglect of duty, gross immorality, incompetency, or high crimes or misdemeanors, in the method that section 9 of article IV of the West Virginia constitution prescribes (The West Virginia Judicial System, 2011).
It is evident that, there is no process in judicial selection that has emerged as entirely suitable for every scenario in judicial selection decisions, at every level in a judicial system of a State, to realize the essential goal of striking the optimal balance between judicial independence, and judicial accountability while upholding high quality and competence.
Office of the Executive Secretary. (2009). Virginia’s Judicial System. Retrieved from http://www.courts.state.va.us/
The West Virginia Judicial System. (2011).West Virginia Judiciary. Retrieved from http://www.state.wv.us/wvsca/wvsystem.htm
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