Area Bar Endorses Attorneys

But GA Gets Final Say On Judgeships

Posted: April 30, 2014

HARRISONBURG — The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Bar Association endorsed two local attorneys for judgeships during a special meeting of the bar at Rockingham County Circuit Court on Friday.

The bar endorsed lawyers James Clough and John Hart for the position of general district court judge. They also endorsed Clough for a possible judgeship in juvenile and domestic relations court.

The bar’s endorsements were not for current vacancies in the 26th Judicial District, but for proposed additions.

The House of Delegates and Senate both included money in their versions of the state budget this year to fund two new circuit court judgeships and one general district court judge in the 26th District, which includes Clark, Frederick, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren counties, and the cities of Harrisonburg and Winchester.

The two chambers are at odds, however, on whether to fund the position of a juvenile and domestic relations court judge.

The General Assembly has yet to pass a budget for fiscal 2015, which begins July 1.

To be endorsed by the bar, a candidate must receive at least two-thirds of the votes by members attending the meeting. A candidate receiving votes from half the members but fewer than two-thirds is deemed “qualified.”

Clough, 54, has a Harrisonburg general practice, most recently handling domestic relations and bankruptcy cases. He also has previous criminal defense experience.

“It’s a great honor for them to give me the endorsement,” said Clough, who’s practiced law for 28 years and has served as a substitute judge in both courts for about five years. “It’s something I’ll cherish.”

He said he’s ready for the next step.

“At some point in your career, you look for other avenues to serve in,” he said.

Messages left for Hart were not immediately returned for this story.

Assistant Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Anthony Bailey was voted “qualified” by the bar to be a juvenile and domestic relations court judge. “I was humbled and grateful to have been deemed qualified for the juvenile and domestic relations court judge, but, ultimately, the decision of who will become judge rests with the General Assembly,” Bailey said.

Bailey, 54, has practiced law for 27 years, including 12 years as a prosecutor. Five of those years were handling juvenile cases.

“I’ve loved and enjoyed serving the public,” Bailey said. “The JDR court is the best opportunity to deal with the problems and issues that arise in families and young people. That’s where I feel I’d be best to serve the community.”

The bar didn’t endorse anyone for circuit court judge.

Liza Wirtz, a lawyer with Blue Ridge Legal Services and president of the bar, said the names have been passed on to legislators representing the judicial district. Five Valley lawmakers, including Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, held interviews with about 20 judicial candidates on April 2 in Woodstock.

In Virginia, the General Assembly elects judges based on the names submitted by district lawmakers.

“It’s a lengthy and time-honored tradition for our bar [to endorse candidates],” Wirtz said. “I think [the legislators] weigh it in their decision-making process.”

A 2013 study, The Virginia Judicial Workload Assessment Report, determined that the 26th District needs three additional circuit court judges, two juvenile and domestic relations court judges and one for general district court.

If the new positions on the bench are funded and approved by lawmakers, the chief judges for the district likely will assign which county or city in which the new judges will hear cases.

Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or pdelea@dnronline.com



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