I wanted to pass along this article that recently appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. I think it accurately captures the differing perspectives. I will continue to work with Leader Saslaw and other Democrats to ensure that the rule of law is applied in a fair and transparent manner in the Commonwealth.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of assistance.
David J. Toscano
Democrats urge ‘fair, and open hearings’ on Supreme Court justice
Democratic leaders in the General Assembly have sent a letter to Republican leaders who control the legislature urging “full, fair and open hearings” in the judicial selection process for state’s highest court. The Aug. 7 letter, sent by Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, and House Minority Leader David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, is one of a series of letters and petitions sent to Republican leaders in support of state Supreme Court Justice Jane Marum Roush. Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed the former Fairfax County Circuit Court judge last month to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice LeRoy F. Millette, Jr. Republican leaders have announced that they will support a different candidate — Court of Appeals Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr., — when the legislature reconvenes Monday in a special session to tackle congressional redistricting.
Republicans were angered that the governor did not more extensively collaborate with them on his recess appointment of Roush — a well-regarded judge who presided over the trial of Beltway sniper Lee Boyd Malvo. Roush had bipartisan backing in Fairfax County. Her supporters include Del. David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee. The governor said the removal of a justice from the court would be unprecedented and termed the GOP plan to replace Roush “a political temper tantrum” that would “kick this woman to the curb who has served with distinction for 23 years.”
As of Monday evening, there appeared to be no movement from House Republicans on their intention to replace Roush with Alston. “The House position has not changed,” said Matthew Moran, spokesman for House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford. Albo could not be reached for comment. The Virginia Constitution gives the governor the power to make judicial appointments while the General Assembly is in recess; however, all judicial appointees must be certified by the legislature, and any interim appointments must be approved by the assembly or they expire 30 days after a legislative session convenes. The legislature could elect Roush to a full, 12-year-term or select another candidate to fill the vacancy.
“The Constitution makes very plain that it is the General Assembly that has this responsibility, not just the Republican caucuses of the House and Senate,” Saslaw and Toscano wrote in the letter sent to the chairmen and membership of the House and Senate Courts of Justice Committees, and to House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford. The letter urges committee leaders to “convene full, fair and open hearings … to consider the respective qualifications of Justice Roush and the Republican Caucuses’ candidate for election to the Virginia Supreme Court. This process should be completely open to the public, should offer all committee members a chance to pose question to both Justice Roush and Judge Alston, and should consider public comment from concerned citizens who might want to participate in this decision,” the letter says.
A bipartisan group of more than 100 female attorneys also wrote to Republican leaders of the Virginia General Assembly urging them to not use Roush’s appointment as a “political tool in partisan party politics.” Roush also received support from the Fairfax Bar Association. An online petition urging her retention has garnered more than 800 signatures.