Thursday, January 24, 2008

Judges face reappointment questions

Two judges who were appointed when Republicans controlled the General Assembly appear to face an uphill battle for second terms.

Legislators insist, however, that performance, not politics, is the issue. Democrats took control of the Senate in the November election. Republican still have a majority in the House.

Norfolk Circuit Judge Charles D. Griffith Jr. has to contend with the sharp criticism the Supreme Court of Virginia delivered in Wilson v. Commonwealth in reversing a drug conviction.

The court said Griffith’s response to what he viewed as judge-shopping by defense attorney Allan D. Zaleski “raised concerns about the judge’s impartiality in the case and about the public’s perception of fairness in the case.” Some criminal defense attorneys believe that Griffith, who was the city commonwealth’s attorney when he was appointed to the bench, remains too prosecution-oriented.

Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, D-Tazewell, said he is not supporting the reappointment of Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Judge John M. Farmer because he has received numerous complaints about him in the six years he has been on the bench. Farmer is based in Clintwood and sits in the district that includes Dickenson, Russell, Buchanan and Tazewell counties.

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