The Constitution of Virginia guarantees the right to a "speedy and public trial." Unfortunately, with judicial vacancies growing and the case backlog expanding, the Commonwealth is struggling to meet this requirement. "Speedy" turns out not to be very fast at all.
There are several reasons for the case backlog, and money is one of them. Budget cuts forced us to delay filling eighteen judicial vacancies across the Commonwealth. Population shifts have left some judicial districts with far more citizens - and thus far more cases - than intended. But the problem is considerably worse now as additional vacancies have arisen. These are vacancies we're financially able to fill, yet no action has been taken.
In Virginia, the legislature elects members of the state judiciary, from general district court judges to state Supreme Court justices. When the General Assembly is not in session, the Governor makes recess appointments to fill vacancies.
Redistricting, however, threw a wrench into the normal procedure. We've technically been in redistricting session since April (though we've rarely met), so the Governor can't make any recess appointments. And thus far, the legislature hasn't acted on the judge shortage.
How serious is it? Enough that there are Juvenile and Domestic Relations court judges out there with 5,000 cases on their dockets. Enough that we're increasingly turning to smaller appellate panels and drafting retired judges to fill the most critical gaps.
Appointing judges to existing vacancies simply can't wait. Fortunately, Governor McDonnell is lighting a fire under the legislature on the issue. Last week, he wrote a letter urging the General Assembly to elect judges or wrap up the redistricting session so he could appoint them.
There's no excuse for how long redistricting is taking. But the glimmer of good news is that the Governor's letter appears to have cajoled the legislature into action. We'll be going to Richmond on Friday to do something about the shortage of judges. It's about time.
Race in Focus: Ben Loyola vs. Ralph Northam
Ralph Northam would like you to think that he's a moderate. His voting record tells a different story.
Northam voted to raise the gas tax. He voted against a constitutional amendment to prevent raids on the Transportation Trust Fund. He helped block a Right to Work amendment to Virginia's Constitution. Against preventing taxpayer dollars from being spent on elective abortions. Notwithstanding the fact that he's a physician, he even voted against challenging ObamaCare.
Running against Northam is Ben Loyola, a candidate who understands what it takes to get our economy into high gear. Ben's inspiring personal story begins when his father-a Cuban naval officer-fled to America with his young family when Castro seized power.
Now a successful entrepreneur, Loyola started a fast-growing, award-winning defense engineering firm. Building on his experience as a decorated thirty year veteran of the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves, Ben created scores of jobs. If elected, he'll work hard to promote job creation across the Commonwealth through common sense, pro-growth, pro-jobs policies. Ben knows that we're overtaxed and overregulated; he's seen it firsthand.
An Annapolis graduate and Naval Aviator, Ben has served his country for many years. Now he wants to serve our Commonwealth as a State Senator, and I'm proud to stand with him. I will be campaigning with Ben, will you work to help him and our other great challengers across the finish line?