Rumors frequently percolate around the General Assembly building and many of them turn out to be false. One rumor that circulated early Tuesday was that former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was being considered for appointment to the Virginia Supreme Court. I considered the rumor so fantastic that I did not even check into it. Boy, was I wrong! In the blink of an eye, without any interview of Cuccinelli or even an indication he was being considered or was even interested, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee certified and qualified him to be eligible for appointment to the Virginia Supreme Court, the first step in the process of formal appointment.
Alarm bells went off throughout the Capitol as word spread of this latest twist to an already-extraordinary situation. On Monday, in a largely party-line vote, House Republicans voted to appoint Rossie Alston, a Court of Appeals Judge from Prince William County, to the Supreme Court. He did not, however, garner the requisite votes in the Senate, and was not confirmed. This followed the unprecedented vote in the House rejecting Justice Jane Roush, who has been fired by the Republicans from the Supreme Court.
The immediate reaction to the news was “what must they be thinking?” If a Cuccinelli nomination occurred, it would violate almost all of our procedural guidelines, and an undeniably partisan person would be elevated to the Supreme Court. We thought judicial selection and appointment was political before, but we were facing the possibility of totally politicizing the process, an extremely concerning development for the Commonwealth.
The surprises aren’t over yet; now Cuccinelli’s name has been withdrawn, and a new name has been brought forward in the Senate. Stay tuned for further developments.