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State Democrats Send Eight New Judges to the Virginia Court of Appeals

Michael Pope

The Virginia Appeals Court is getting a makeover, including new powers and new judges.

The judges who sit on the current Court of Appeals don't have a lot of diversity. Most are from Richmond or Hampton Roads, and the judges are disproportionately white and male. That's why the slate of new judges makes such a statement — four women and four African Americans.

Here's Lisa Lorish of Charlottesville.

"I particularly am interested in the Court of Appeals because I think it's the most challenging job I can really imagine taking on both in respect to the breadth of the subject matter that will come before the court with its expanded jurisdiction and also because of the impact that you have on the lives of people across the Commonwealth," says Lorish.

The reason for that expanded jurisdiction is to guarantee a right to appeal. Virginia is currently the only state in the country that does not guarantee a right to appeal court rulings. One of the new judges, Frank Friedman of Roanoke, says the limited jurisdiction of the current court is a problem.

"It's always bothered me that someone up until now could get a life sentence and not have an appeal of right," Friedman says.

Democrats who are in control of the General Assembly are creating six new positions and filling two vacancies. So that's eight new members of a 17-member court — almost half of the judges on the bench for the expanded version of the Virginia Court of Appeals.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.