Virginia Judicial System: Judge terms

Structure of the judicial system and current process which judges go through in the state of Virginia can be found at the Va. Division of Legislative Services.

The court system in Virginia is made up of the following 5 jurisdictionally distinct courts and terms and are appointed by state legislature:
Supreme Court,  7 justices for 12 years
Court of Appeals, 11 judges for 8 years
Circuit Courts, 8 years
General District Courts, 6 years
Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts, 6 years

Here is the process:
After a judges term expires or is terminated,  the House and Senate Committees for Courts of Justice begin taking nominations from General Assembly members. Names of candidates are then submitted by General Assembly members to the House and Senate Committees for Courts of Justice. These Committees determine whether or not each individual is “qualified” for the judgeship he or she seeks. The hearings held by the Courts’ Committees are open to the public and the public is given an opportunity to appear before the Committees, if someone so desires.

Following the Courts Committees’ determination of qualification, a report listing qualified candidates is made to each house of the General Assembly. The House of Delegates and the Senate vote separately, under a procedural resolution, and the candidate receiving the most votes in each house is elected to the vacant judgeship or new seat. Incumbent judges standing for election to a subsequent term must go through the same process.

This process is very advantageous because rather than just having to convince a small number of municipal leaders of your competence, as a judge candidate, you must convince 140 legislators. This system also allows for community interaction with the process during the Courts’ Committee hearings, although this advantage may be under-utilized because of a lack of knowledge about the process.

If an incumbent judge is abusing his or her power or has misconduct violations the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission will launch an investigation and submit their findings to the Supreme Court who can then rule to dismiss the case or retire, censure, or remove the judge. Judges can also be impeached by the house of delegates and removed by a two thirds vote of the senate.

The Virginia General Assembly has recently mandated a Public Defender’s office for Prince William County Courts.