Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I started writing a new Focus on Fairfax several
times this past month, but each time it seemed that
all of the interesting issues made it to the
newspapers faster than I could write. On June 28th,
the General Assembly finally passed a budget ? with
only two days to spare before the end of the fiscal
year. I suppose you can?t blame the papers for
scooping me on that. While the budget has many
strong points, unfortunately, and despite much
debate, the issue of transportation has again been
left unresolved. And so, as part of the budget
deal, we will likely return to Richmond in September.
Last week, however, I participated in a process that
is rarely mentioned in the newspapers ? although it
probably should be. The Fairfax Delegation
(consisting of legislators from Fairfax County and
the City of Fairfax) made its recommendations for
new appointees to the 19th Judicial District ?
including the Circuit Court, General District Court,
and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
For better or worse, many of us eventually come
before a judge in Virginia. But even if you don?t,
these are the people who interpret our laws, hear
criminal and civil cases, and make decisions about
the best interests of children under some of the
toughest circumstances. And yet, unlike many states
that elect judges or have high-profile selection
processes, Virginia?s is about as low-key as they come.
Part of the reason is that Virginia is one of only
two states where judges are elected by the
legislature (South Carolina being the other). This
arrangement can, and has, been abused in the past.
The Byrd Machine, which dominated Virginia politics
for over a half century, often awarded judgeships as
political reward without regard to actual merit.
Although the General Assembly is sometimes still
chided for inserting politics into judicial
selections, the process established by the Fairfax
Delegation in the 19th Judicial District is often
cited as a model for the non-partisan selection of
judges based on merit.
For that, we can thank former Senators Abe Brault
(who, I am proud to say, lived in what is now the
37th District) and Joseph Gartlan. During the
1970s, they set up a system where each legislator
representing any part of the 19th Judicial District
had one vote ? regardless of political party. This
tradition has carried on through today, surviving
the power shift in the General Assembly from the
Democrats to the Republicans.
To begin the process, the local bar associations
screen the applicants and make recommendations on
those who are most qualified. The Fairfax
Delegation then interviews the candidates, assesses
them for judicial temperament, and votes by secret
ballot. While the full General Assembly must vote
on the nominee, by tradition, once the Fairfax
Delegation has made its choice, the General Assembly
respects that decision.
Each judge must also come before the Fairfax
Delegation for re-appointment. Circuit Court judges
come up for re-appointment every eight years, while
General District and J&DR judges come up for
re-appointment every six years.
Below are the Fairfax Delegation?s nominees from our
July 12th meeting. Congratulations to each of them.
Maybe you know one of them. Maybe you will get to
meet them in the future. They are all excellent people.
Judge Charles Maxfield (Circuit Court).
Judge Maxfield is currently a judge on the Fairfax
County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District
Court, where he has served since 1994. A retired
U.S. Army Captain, he is a resident of Oak Hill.
Judge Maxfield graduated from Oakton High School and
received his law degree from the College of William
Lisa Mayne (General District Court). Lisa
Mayne is a resident of Reston. She has served as a
Substitute Judge since 2004 and received her law
degree from George Mason University. Ms. Mayne is a
partner in the firm of Kelly, Mayne, and Daughtrey,
which deals in contracts, collections, and
commercial transaction cases.
Helen Leiner (Juvenile and Domestic Relations
Court). Helen Leiner lives in Ridgelea Hills
(another proud resident of the 37th District) and is
also a graduate of George Mason University. Her law
practice has focused on representing juveniles
accused of criminal behavior and on matters
involving protective orders and abuse and neglect
Glenn Clayton (Juvenile and Domestic
Relations Court). Glenn Clayton lives in Burke and
has a law practice located near the intersection of
Braddock Road and the Beltway. He graduated from
the University of Toledo Law School in Ohio.
Notably, Mr. Clayton is very involved in local
athletics and served as the President of the Board
of Directors of the Robinson Rams Athletic Boosters
Today, there is still debate about what system works
best to take politics out of the judiciary, while
still making sure that judges are accountable and
don?t become disconnected with the people that they
serve. While our system here in Fairfax isn?t
perfect, it is the envy of Virginia, and we can all
be proud of that.
Finally, I want to give a big thanks and
congratulations to Andrea Loewenwarter, who has
served ably as my Legislative Assistant for the past
six months. Andrea has accepted a job with the City
of Fairfax. I am very pleased, however, that Rama
Van Pelt will now be working in our Fairfax District
Office full time. Rama served as my Legislative
Assistant in Richmond. Welcome Rama. As always,
please do not hesitate to contact me on issues of
concern to our community.