A group of more than 200 Virginia residents, calling themselves the “Pitchfork Rebellion” and frustrated with the way the state selects judges, wants the public to have more say in who sits on the bench and for how long. Virginia is one of only two states, along with South Carolina, that empower their state legislatures to pick state judges, a process primarily conducted behind closed doors.
The citizens group is advocating term limits for judges and an overhaul of the state’s process of evaluating judges. It also wants public participation in judicial selection from start to finish, hearings that are open to the public and anonymity or immunity for those who testify against sitting judges.
There are arguments for keeping the judicial selection process the way it is. But they’ve never set well, particularly as the process tends towards secrecy. And high-handedness:
The group became particularly frustrated trying to find out when legislators would meet to discuss judgeships. On Friday night, in response to an e-mail from Elizabeth Haring of Leesburg, Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (D-Richmond) wrote that his “Senate Courts of Justice [committee] is not meeting regarding Judge Finch.”
Then, on Saturday, the committee did meet, discuss and vote on Finch and refused to let Haring testify. Marsh has declined repeated requests to discuss the process. An agreement has been reached in which Finch will be reappointed to another eight-year term and then retire at the end of this year.
So much for honesty (let alone transparency).
Will this “rebellion” gain steam — especially in an election year?
Maybe so. It will definitely be worth watching.