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AG Miyares wants more transparency about decisions to dismiss or suspend judges

AG Jason Miyares says he'll work with lawmakers to introduce legislation next year.
Cliff Owen
AG Jason Miyares says he'll work with lawmakers to introduce legislation next year.

Virginia's attorney general is calling for greater transparency on the bench.

Virginia judges usually sit in judgment of other people. But sometimes judges take off the black robe and sit in the defendant's seat for allegations of wrongdoing or corruption. That's why Virginia has a commission to investigate. Now Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares says the public has a right to know about why the commission decides to dismiss or suspend judges.

Carl Tobias is a professor of law at the University of Richmond.

"We often believe that transparency and sunlight is valuable," Tobias says. "And on the other hand, and I think the judges probably feel strongly about this, the number of the complaints may be lodged by either frustrated lawyers or people who lose in litigation."

Revenge is a dish best served cold, which is why Virginia legal expert Rich Kelsey says it's important to separate the signal from the noise.

"We have an awful lot of complaints against the judiciary," Kelsey explains. "Many of them are not only frivolous but a little bit out there. I'd like to see some screening process where complaints that are not frivolous are open to public scrutiny."

The attorney general says he’ll work with the General Assembly next year to draft legislation creating more transparency.

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.