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Governor proposes funds to hire more judges
Gov. McDonnell proposes money to fill three local judge vacancies

Date published: 12/13/2012

BY CHELYEN DAVIS

Gov. Bob McDonnell is proposing that money be added to the state budget to fill vacant judgeships, including two that cover Spotsylvania, Caroline and King George counties and one that covers Louisa County.

McDonnell is due to unveil all of his proposed amendments to the state's two-year budget on Monday.

According to a statement from his office on Wednesday, he'll propose $3.7 million to fill judicial vacancies, based on caseload in the different judicial districts. Of that $3.7 million, $675,616 would be new money, while the rest comes from agency savings.

The 15th Judicial District--which includes Spotsylvania, Caroline, King George and Hanover counties--would be authorized to fill one vacant general district judgeship and one circuit court post.

In total, McDonnell is proposing money to fill eight general district judgeships, five circuit ones and two juvenile judgeships.

One of the juvenile judgeships is in the 16th Judicial District, which includes Louisa County.

Those judgeships are vacant because the General Assembly had frozen funding for them in recent years, in an effort to save money.

In 2010, House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, said it was cheaper to use temporary judges than to permanently fill vacancies.

In annual budget negotiations since, lawmakers have agreed to unfreeze some of the vacancies, but not all.

McDonnell said in his statement that filling those judgeships should alleviate some workload concerns in those districts.

"Vacant judgeships in recent years have put an undue burden on certain districts and circuits," McDonnell said. "By providing new state support to fund these [judgeships], we will alleviate the burden on judges in these jurisdictions and help ensure swift justice and the right to a speedy trial for Virginians."

He will also propose a $2.14 million budget amendment to raise the salaries of assistant commonwealth's attorneys by $3,300 a year in fiscal 2014, with plans to double that in the following year. A pay raise of $6,600 a year would raise assistant commonwealth's attorneys' starting salaries to around $52,000 a year.

Commonwealth's attorneys say the low pay for new assistant attorneys has made it difficult to recruit and retain good lawyers for those positions.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028
Email: cdavis@freelancestar.com