By Alexandra Bogdanovic and staff
Former General District Court Judge Charles B. Foley’s position may not be filled for at least two years as a result of a budget amendment included in the spending plan recently approved by the General Assembly.
The amendment stipulates that, regardless of state law, positions vacated due to the death, retirement or resignation of any judge between Feb. 15 and July 1 are no longer authorized.
Foley retired March 1.
Rappahannock District Court Clerk Patricia Davis arranged for substitute and retired judges – including Foley – to preside here until state legislators chose Foley’s successor.
“We have been told that there’s funding available for retired and substitute judges until further notice,” Davis said.
Among the judges scheduled to preside in Rappahannock over the next few months are retired Albemarle County Judge Stephen Helvin and substitute Judge Thomas G. Underwood, Davis said.
In Fauquier County, part of the district Foley presided, the General Assembly’s action angered and disheartened Warrenton attorney Powell Duggan.
“I know it is hard – legislators are trying to balance the budget and they just can’t print money,” Duggan said Monday.
“But we’ve had a judge sitting in General District Court here since I’ve been practicing. It is unbelievable to me that they chose to mess with this. They didn’t even do any kind of analysis.”
In larger jurisdictions with more judges, the loss of one could be easily mitigated, Duggan said. But, as in Rappahannock, Foley was the only judge presiding in General District Court in Warrenton, and he had a large case load.
“Now we are peacemealing with substitute judges, and we don’t know what the different judges will do,” Duggan said. “I can’t fathom why they are doing this across the state.”
In all, there are 19 vacant judgeships.
State Sen. Jill Vogel opposed the measure, saying it is vital to fund the positions.
“As legislators, we have many responsibilities, but we have two constitutional duties: One is to deliver a budget, and the other is to appoint judges,” Vogel said Tuesday.
“I am working hard to communicate with the governor’s office to convey how important it is that this is changed,” she said.
The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene for a veto session on April 21.