Local attorneys concerned over upcoming judicial appointment
Local attorneys are up in arms over the upcoming appointment of a judge for the 9th Judicial District to preside over General District Court cases in Gloucester, Mathews, Middlesex and New Kent counties.
In what several of the local attorneys have termed a politically-motivated maneuver, the General Assembly Courts of Justice Committees that oversee judicial appointments for the state legislature initially turned down Gloucester attorney Michael Soberick’s request for an interview for the position.
The seat is expected to become available when District Court Judge Jeffrey W. Shaw moves into the Circuit Court judgeship vacated when Judge R. Bruce Long retired in December. Shaw is the only candidate currently being considered for the Circuit Court position.
Shaw was scheduled to be interviewed yesterday in Richmond for the Circuit Court position. Interviews were also scheduled yesterday for Shaw’s possible replacement in the lower court.
Soberick had been recommended for the District Court appointment by three different bar associations—Middle Peninsula, York-Poquoson and Williamsburg. Following an uproar from local attorneys, he was eventually granted a Sept. 17 interview for the position, according to attorney Bill Johnson.
Johnson, a Mathews resident who maintains his law office in Gloucester Court House, said that he and his colleagues were all floored by the slight and concerned about the possible loss of local control over the judiciary. The only person who was initially recommended for the judicial position, said Johnson, was Stephanie Merritt of King William, department counsel for the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.
Johnson said that he had been told that Merritt’s appointment was “a done deal” and that he had been given three reasons for the decision not to interview Soberick—that Soberick didn’t spend enough time talking to legislators, that it’s a Republican-controlled legislature, and that Soberick once ran as a Democrat against former Republican Del. Harvey Morgan for a seat in the House of Delegates.
“That’s just Cro-Magnon thinking,” said Johnson. “It’s an outrageous abuse of power.”