After three years, York-Poquoson Circuit Court’s vacant judge seat will finally be filled by Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Richard AtLee, thanks to action Friday by state legislators.
Legislators selected AtLee a week after being criticized by Governor Bob McDonnell for dragging their feet on redistricting and judicial appointments.
In a statement issued Friday afternoon, McDonnell said, “I congratulate these newly elected justices and judges on their election. I also thank the General Assembly for taking action to fill these vacancies so that justice can continue to be served in our Commonwealth.”
The York-Poquoson Circuit Court hasn’t had a permanent judge since former Judge N. Prentis Smiley died in 2008. Substitute judges have been divvying up cases since that time, with a trio of sitting circuit court judges handling criminal cases and a string of available judges, most of them retired, handling the civil docket. Lawyers with civil cases have learned not to expect court dates to come quickly or easily; criminal lawyers realize they won’t know who will preside over their cases until, at best, a week before a hearing.
In 2010, the General Assembly froze funding for judicial vacancies but reinstated funding this year. Though the money was available, legislators couldn’t come to a decision on various vacancies until Friday.
Lawmakers agreed earlier on AtLee’s nomination, but could not agree on whether Williamsburg-James City County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Sandy Conyers or local attorney Sid Insley should be appointed to replace him.
There’s no word yet whether lawmakers have agreed on AtLee’s replacement.