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Local bar endorses two for judgeships
Two Spotsylvania County juvenile court judges endorsed by Fredericksburg Bar Association for Circuit Court judgeships


Date published: 1/13/2007

By BILL FREEHLING

The Fredericksburg Bar Association has endorsed two Spotsylvania County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judges to fill vacancies left by two retiring Circuit Court judges.

David H. Beck and Joseph J. Ellis were endorsed by the local bar at a Wednesday night meeting, said outgoing bar president Tracy Ann Houck.

"They've already shown that they're capable of dealing with the rigors of the bench," Houck said.

The bar voted for the two candidates to replace retiring Circuit Court judges H. Harrison Braxton Jr. in Stafford County and Ann Hunter Simpson in Spotsylvania. Braxton has already retired, while Simpson plans to step down when her eight-year term ends June 30.

The ultimate decision as to who fills their positions is made by the General Assembly. A majority vote from the House of Delegates and Senate is required.

Incoming Fredericksburg Bar president Robert J. Barlow said the General Assembly approves the "vast majority" of judges endorsed by local bars. But he noted that the General Assembly can pick a different candidate and has done so at times.

The local bar voted on four different candidates for the judgeships--Beck, Ellis, Gordon Willis and Sarah Deneke. Each had previously informed the local Bar of their interest in the positions. Willis is a Stafford General District Court judge, and Deneke is a prosecutor in Stafford.

"Any of those folks would be fine [Circuit] judges," Houck said, adding that the vote was close. "These were all very qualified people."

Houck said about 125 local bar members attended the Wednesday night meeting, and others voted by proxy. A nominating speech was made for each candidate before written votes were cast.

There were numerous rounds of voting, Barlow said. The candidate with the fewest votes was eliminated in each round until just two remained. The members then picked between those two candidates.

That led to the first candidate being endorsed, Barlow said. They then repeated the process with the three remaining candidates to get the second endorsement.

If Beck and Ellis are approved by the General Assembly, it's not yet clear who will sit in what court. That'll be determined at a later time.

If they are approved, there would be two openings for judges in Spotsylvania juvenile court. The local Bar would then again begin the process of seeking and endorsing replacements.

To reach BILL FREEHLING: 540/374-5424
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com