Thursday, September 25, 2003

Suing legislators over judicial selection

Via Virginia Lawyers Weekly, the Richmond Times-Dispatch has this story about a lawsuit brought by a Richmond lawyer against a group of legislators for asking improper questions of candidates for judicial positions about actual cases from the past, present, or future.

The article includes this description of the petitioner's views:

"Baugh said he attended sessions at which judges who were up for reappointment were questioned by members of the House committee about decisions they had made.

Such questioning suggested that reappointment would be influenced by whether the judges' interpretation of the law matched that of the legislators, Baugh said in the suit.

Any effort to influence judicial discretion violates the state constitution and the right of the people "to be free from oppressive government, which arises when one branch of the government seeks to or actually dictates how that discretion should be applied," Baugh said.

Baugh alluded to the questioning of Judge Rosemarie Annunziata when she was up for reappointment this year to a second eight-year term on the Virginia Court of Appeals.

Several legislators challenged the reasoning in her dissent in favor of a lesbian mother in a child-custody case, but she ultimately was reappointed.

The questioning was improper because it was aimed at the exercise of Annunziata's judicial discretion, Baugh said. The only proper areas of inquiry are a judicial candidate's "good behavior, personal character and fitness for office," he wrote."

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