The VBA Process for Evaluating Judicial Candidates  
Strong judges are necessary for the administration of justice, and the organized bar plays an important role in the process of judicial selection. As the independent voice of the Virginia lawyer, the VBA provides our candid recommendations to those who select judges for Virginia's appellate courts and federal district courts. We recently completed our process for the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court of Virginia. In this In a VBA Minute, I would like to share how the VBA's recommendations are made.

Pursuant to a policy adopted by the Board of Governors, the VBA follows a consistent process. All proceedings are strictly confidential. We have standing committees composed of prominent trial lawyers with diverse perspectives. When a vacancy arises, the committee members review extensive materials about the candidates, solicit confidential feedback from other practitioners, and discuss the VBA's relevant factors among each other. There are no litmus tests. The relevant factors are the following, in no particular order:

  • Integrity and character
  • Judgment and common sense
  • Legal knowledge and intellectual ability
  • Training and experience
  • Temperament
  • Work ethic
  • Reputation in his/her community, and community service
  • Commitment to due process, equal access to justice, and right to trial by jury.

The VBA process differs from other bars' in two significant respects. First, we do not interview candidates. Invariably, the top candidates are already well-known to the committee and to the practicing bar. Our process therefore focuses on evaluating the candidates' respective merits. Likewise, the VBA does not rate candidates as "qualified" or any variants thereof. We have found that virtually all candidates are qualified. Instead, to assist those ultimately selecting our judges, the VBA deems a subset of the qualified candidates as "recommended." Two-thirds of the committee members must agree for any candidate to be recommended.


We take pride in the independence of our process. Vetting judicial candidates can be challenging, but our committee members take the role very seriously.



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2015 photo
Harry M. "Pete" Johnson, III
The Virginia Bar Association 
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