Special Committee on Judicial Nominations
Sean P. Kelly, chair
The Special Committee on Judicial Nominations had a busy year screening and evaluating candidates for vacancies on the Virginia Court of Appeals, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The following are the summary reports for candidates for each judgeship:
Virginia Court of Appeals vacancy
Following notice of the vacancy in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly and the collection of extensive background information, the Judicial Nominations Committee conducted interviews with eight individuals on Wednesday, January 7, 2009. The committee’s report and recommendations were reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee by polling the members via email.
Under the bar’s policy, most recently revised in October 2007, the Judicial Nominations Committee is charged with evaluating the qualifications of each candidate and rating those found to possess the requisite experience, temperament, integrity, and ability as either qualified or highly qualified. Each person’s rating is also accompanied by an executive summary, prepared by the committee, which explains the basis for the rating.
At the conclusion of each interview, the committee members involved voted on whether the candidate was “qualified.” At the conclusion of all the interviews, the committee discussed and voted on whether the qualified candidates were “highly qualified.” Please be aware that, under the bar’s new procedures, a majority of the committee members voting is required for a candidate to be designated as “qualified;” and a majority of those voting in a second vote is required for a candidate to be designated “highly qualified.”
The Virginia State Bar submits the following names, listed alphabetically, of individuals found to be either “qualified” or “highly qualified”:
Alexander N. Levay
Honorable Burke F. McCahill
Honorable John E. Wetsel Jr.
Kimberley Slayton White
Fourth Circuit and U.S. District Court vacancies
Following notice of the vacancies in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly and the collection of extensive background information, the Judicial Nominations Committee conducted interviews with thirty individuals on February 19 and 20, 2009. The committee’s report and recommendations were reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee at its meeting on February 27, 2009.
Under the bar’s policy, most recently revised in October 2007, the Judicial Nominations Committee is charged with evaluating the qualifications of each candidate and rating those found to possess the requisite experience, temperament, integrity, and ability as either qualified or highly qualified. Each person’s rating is also accompanied by an executive summary, prepared by the Committee, which explains the basis for the rating.
The Judicial Nominations Committee consists of well respected members of the practicing bar in the Commonwealth of Virginia, comprising a blue-ribbon panel of lawyers from each judicial circuit in Virginia. The following JNC members participated on February 19th and 20th:
Sean P. Kelly, Chair, McLean
William E. Bradshaw, Big Stone Gap
Marni E. Byrum, Alexandria
David W. Bouchard, Chesapeake
Richard E. Ladd Jr., Bristol
Daniel J. Meador Jr., Charlottesville
J. Bruce Strickland, Fredericksburg
Ann K. Sullivan, Norfolk
John M. Tran, Alexandria
William T. Wilson, Covington
Deborah A.J. Wilson from Fairfax participated in the interviews and discussions that took place on Friday, February 20th (Gibney, Starr, Banks, Lauck, Gill, Shebelskie, Bellows, Dang, Ferguson, Taylor, Segal, Eubanks, Brudzinski, Jones and Dillard), but did not participate in the discussion of whether the qualified candidates were deemed “Highly Qualified” for the Fourth Circuit positions since she did not participate in all of the interviews and discussions for that position.
Calvin S. Spencer from Kenbridge participated in some of the interviews and discussions that took place on February 20th (Bellows, Dang, Ferguson, Taylor, Segal, Eubanks, Brudzinski, Jones and Dillard), but did not participate in the discussion of whether the qualified candidates for either position were deemed “Highly Qualified” because he did not participate in all of those interviews and discussions.
Ronald R. Wesley, a member of the JNC from Richmond, assisted with the background investigations, but was not able to participate in the interviews and discussions.
Daniel Meador abstained from participating in the interviews or from voting on the evaluations of M. Elizabeth Magill and James E. Ryan. Richard Ladd abstained from voting on the evaluation of Mary Lynn Tate.
Irving M. Blank from Richmond participated as a representative of the VSB’s Executive Committee. Karen A. Gould attended as Executive Director of the VSB.
Virginia’s United States Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner had asked the JNC to evaluate residents of Virginia for the position, regardless of whether they are Virginia-licensed attorneys. Federal law requires that appointees to a circuit court of appeals (except for D.C.) be a resident of the circuit (28 U.S.C. § 44) and to a federal district court (except for D.C. and the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York) be a resident of the district (28 U.S.C. § 134). We have indicated in the executive summaries where the person is licensed and where they reside.
In addition to the candidates evaluated, there were other candidates who did not submit their names and materials to the VSB by the deadline of February 6, 2009.1 The Committee felt that the deadline needed to be honored; otherwise, candidates would continue submitting their names for consideration with no finite end to whom would be considered. Indeed, the Committee received a submission from an individual on the first day of the interviews.
The evaluation process undertaken by the JNC is time consuming and complex. The JNC members conduct an investigation of each candidate in advance of the meeting by interviewing lawyers and judges familiar with that individual. The JNC then receives the reports of each investigation before interviewing each candidate. After the candidates are interviewed, a vote is taken as to whether the candidate is “Qualified,” taking into consideration the factors outlined in the JNC policy, i.e. integrity, professional competence, experience, temperament, civic activities, and public service. The JNC policy further provides that appellate court nominees “should possess an especially high degree of scholarship and academic talent and an unusual degree of overall excellence.” A majority of the JNC members voting is required for a candidate to be designated as “Qualified.” A majority of those voting in a second vote is required for a candidate to be designated as “Highly Qualified.” The “Highly Qualified” designation is an evaluation of “whether any of the candidates deemed qualified possesses a level of qualification and distinction sufficiently greater than the others to merit the designation of ‘Highly Qualified.’” If a candidate is found not to be qualified for whatever reason, no report is prepared regarding that candidate.
Because of recent developments in the qualification of President Obama’s appointments to his cabinet, the Committee started each interview with the following series of questions:
Have you ever had a civil judgment entered against you? Have you ever been subject to a lien by a government or administrative agency? Have you ever been sanctioned by a government, administrative or regulatory agency? Have you ever been subject to a collection action for failure to satisfy a judgment, lien, or other sanction? Do you have any tax issues that you think this Committee should know about?
These questions did elicit some information from the candidates.
The twenty-one candidates evaluated by the JNC for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals judgeship were as follows (in alphabetical order)(non-Virginia licensed attorneys are denoted by an asterisk):
Gregory A. Ashe
Michael St. P. Baxter*
The Honorable Walter J. Brudzinski
J. Amy Dillard
The Honorable John S. Edwards
Sharon Y. Eubanks*
The Honorable E. Roy Hawkens
Kathleen J.L. Holmes
The Honorable Raymond A. Jackson
Lisa E. Jones
The Honorable Barbara M. Keenan
M. Elizabeth Magill*
Patricia A. Millett*
James E. Ryan*
Randy S. Segal
Richard A. Simpson
A. Benjamin Spencer
Mary Lynn Tate
John Charles Thomas
Carl W. Tobias
James J. Vergara Jr.
The fourteen candidates evaluated by the Committee for the United States District Court judgeship were:
James L. Banks Jr.
The Honorable Randy S. Bellows
The Honorable Walter J. Brudzinski
The Honorable Thu-Anh Dang
Sharon Y. Eubanks*
Francis S. Ferguson
John A. Gibney
Paul G. Gill
Lisa E. Jones
The Honorable M. Hannah Lauck
Randy S. Segal
Michael R. Shebelskie
Edward H. Starr Jr.
The Honorable Richard D. Taylor Jr.
Please note that four candidates wished to be considered for both judgeships, and their names are included in the above lists. They were the Honorable Walter J. Brudzinski, Sharon Y. Eubanks, Lisa E. Jones and Randy S. Segal.
After reviewing the submissions of the candidates, receiving summaries of the background investigations, and interviewing the candidates (with the exception of Judge Jackson, who withdrew his request to be interviewed, citing concerns about appearing before members of the Committee who practice before him), the Committee made the following evaluations of the candidates for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals judgeship, listed in alphabetical order, with the vote regarding each individual recorded in the parenthetical:
Highly Qualified for the Fourth Circuit Judgeship
The Honorable John S. Edwards (6-4)
The Honorable Barbara M. Keenan (10-0)
Patricia A. Millett (8-2)
Richard A. Simpson (7-3)
Qualified for the Fourth Circuit Judgeship
Michael St. P. Baxter (8-2)
The Honorable E. Roy Hawkens (8-2)
Kathleen J.L. Holmes (8-2)
The Honorable Raymond A. Jackson (9-1)
Lisa E. Jones (10-2)2
A. Benjamin Spencer (8-2)
John Charles Thomas (9-1)
For the judgeship on the United States District Court, Eastern District, Richmond, Division, the Committee made the following evaluations, listed in alphabetical order, with the vote regarding each individual recorded in the parenthetical:
Highly Qualified for the ED. Va Judgeship
The Honorable Randy S. Bellows (6-5)
John A. Gibney (9-2)
The Honorable M. Hannah Lauck (11-0)
Qualified for the ED. Va Judgeship
Paul G. Gill (10-1)
The Honorable Richard D. Taylor, Jr. (8-4)
1 Those persons were Judge Larry G. Elder of the Virginia Court of Appeals; Kent R. Brown of the U.S. Department of Justice; John S. Martin of Hunton & Williams; Rachel A. Harmon of the University of Virginia School of Law and Edward R. McNicholas of Sidley Austin in D.C. Harmon and McNicholas are not Virginia-licensed attorneys.
2 Deborah Wilson and Calvin Spencer participated in the interview and deliberations regarding Lisa Jones, but not the other Fourth Circuit candidates, and did not participate in the Highly Qualified deliberations regarding any of the Fourth Circuit candidates.Updated: Sep 01, 2009