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White tapped for Circuit judgeship
SoVaNow.com / August 13, 2012The empty seat on the 10th Judicial Circuit bench has been filled, for now, by Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Kim Slayton White. Her interim appointment was made by Gov. Bob McDonnell on Friday, but must be approved by the General Assembly within 30 days of its return in January.
The 10th Judicial Circuit includes Halifax as well as Appomattox, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, and Prince Edward counties.
White said she “is honored and thrilled to have the appointment.” She first learned that she was selected Friday afternoon when contacted by the Governor’s Chief Policy Attorney, J. Jasen Eige.
White had gone through a rigorous vetting process in the months leading up to the announcement. McDonnell, in a written statement, called her “highly qualified” and said White and a second appointee, Jack S. “Chip” Hurley Jr. in the 29th Judicial Circuit, “are respected in the legal field and active members of their communities.”
White said this weekend she does not know when she will assume her position on the bench. She plans to meet with the governor’s office and Chief Circuit Judge Leslie M. Osborn today.
Noting that the 10th Judicial Circuit has struggled with a backload of cases since Judge Richard S. Blanton of Farmville retired in 2011, White said, “My plan is to get on the bench as quickly as possible.”
White believes she probably will hear cases in the northern end of the circuit, since Judge Blanton primarily covered that area. “Obviously, I will go where Judge Osborn sees the need.”
In addition to hearing cases, one of White’s first official acts will include her participation in the selection of a new Juvenile and Domestic Relations judge to succeed Michael Rand of South Boston, who retired earlier this year. White previously had expressed an interest in that appointment, although later was interviewed by General Assembly committees for the Circuit Court opening.
Local candidates who have interviewed for the domestic court judgeship are Halifax attorneys Robert Morrison and Tracy Quackenbush Martin.
“I have no preference for that position. My immediate goal is to learn the process that Judge Osborn wants to follow,” said White.
Following the inability of the General Assembly to settle on a permanent appointment, the interim choice will be made by the three Circuit judges: Osborn, White and Presiding Judge Joel Cunningham.
Previously, Osborn said he would forego any decision until after the governor had filled the vacancy in the 10th Judicial Circuit.
Although White had run into stiff opposition from General Assembly Democrats who managed to block her appointment in 2011, when they held a slim majority in the State Senate, McDonnell opted to carry out the recess appointment of White this week. She was one of two candidates for the Circuit position who the considered by the legislature; the other was Appomattox County Commonwealth’s Attorney Darrel Puckett. The House and Senate were unable to agree on a selection, leaving the choice up to the governor.
“I am pleased to appoint these highly qualified individuals to the Circuit Court [the Governor also named Judge Jack S. “Chip” Hurley Jr., to the 29th Judicial Circuit].” McDonnell said in a press release. “[White] has honorably served the people of Halifax County as their Commonwealth’s Attorney for the last eight years. Both Kim White and Judge Hurley are respected in the legal field and active members of their communities. Throughout their careers, they have demonstrated legal acumen and fairness to defendants, victims of crime, and others litigants.
“They were selected from a pool of several highly qualified candidates, whom I thank for an interest in serving the Commonwealth. I am confident [White] and Judge Hurley will continue to serve Virginia and their circuits well in these new roles, and it is with great pleasure that I appoint them to the Circuit Court.”
White acknowledged that her permanent appointment by the General Assembly is not guaranteed. However, she believes the best way to overcome any hesitance among State Senators is to provide a record which demonstrates her capabilities as a judge.
“I intend to get on the bench and create a judicial record from which they can see the type of judge I will be,” she said.
White previously served as a public defender, an assistant and deputy commonwealth’s attorney for the City of Lynchburg, and was a special assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia where she specialized in trying drug-related cases. Prior to being elected as Commonwealth’s Attorney, she was a litigation partner with the law firm of Woods Rogers in Danville. She also worked at a small town law firm where she specialized in criminal defense and domestic relations cases.
Her chief deputy, Mike Freshour, will fill the position as commonwealth’s attorney once she assumes the bench. White said that, by law, the chief deputy prosecutor becomes the interim commonwealth’s attorney until a special election is held.
Osborn, as Chief Judge of the circuit that includes Halifax County, will select the date for the election.
White is a graduate of Mary Washington College (now University of Mary Washington) and the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. She is a frequent instructor on trial practice and is a past chair of the Virginia State Bar Committee on Lawyer Discipline. She has also been active in the Republican Party.
She resides in South Boston with her husband, David, and their two children.
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