This is a list of past and present judges of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The court's name was the Supreme Court of Appeals until it was changed in 1971.Members were titled Judge until a 1928 constitutional amendment changed the title to Justice and designated the presiding member Chief Justice.
The court presently is made up of seven justices,each elected by a majority vote of both houses of the General Assembly for a term of twelve years. To be eligible for election, a candidate must be a resident of Virginia and must have been a member of the Virginia State Bar for at least five years. Vacancies on the court occurring between sessions of the General Assembly may be filled by the Governor for a term expiring thirty days after the commencement of the next session of the General Assembly. The Chief Justice presently is chosen by a vote of the seven justices for a term of four years. There is no statutory limit to the number of four-year terms to which a Chief Justice may be elected. However, the Court has stated that the justices internally adopted a two-term limit.
State law requires justices, like all Virginia jurists, to retire no later than twenty days after the commencement of the next regular session of the General Assembly following their seventy-third birthday.The court may designate up to five retired justices to serve as senior justices, each for a renewable one-year term. Senior justices may sit with the court either to hear petitions for appeal or to hear cases on the merits, particularly to replace any of the seven active justices who may be recused from hearing a specific case. In addition, a retired justice who has not been designated as a senior justice may sit with the court by special designation.
|Justice||Born||First term began||Current term ends||Chief|
|S. Bernard Goodwyn||February 23, 1961||October 10, 2007||January 31, 2032||January 1, 2022 – present|
|Cleo E. Powell||January 12, 1957||August 1, 2011||July 31, 2023||——|
|D. Arthur Kelsey||October 9, 1961||February 1, 2015||January 31, 2027||——|
|Stephen R. McCullough||February 15, 1972||March 3, 2016||March 2, 2028||——|
|Teresa M. Chafin||October 4, 1955||September 1, 2019||August 31, 2031||——|
|Wesley G. Russell Jr.||1970 (age 51–52)||July 1, 2022||June 30, 2034||——|
|Thomas P. Mann||1965 (age 56–57)||August 1, 2022||July 31, 2034||——|
|Justice||First term began||Active service ended||Senior status began|
|Charles S. Russell||March 1, 1982||July 1, 1991||January 1, 2004|
|Lawrence L. Koontz Jr.||August 16, 1995||February 1, 2011||February 1, 2011|
|LeRoy F. Millette Jr.||August 19, 2008||July 31, 2015||July 31, 2015|
The Constitution of 1776 provided for a Supreme Court of Appeals but did not specify its structure, leaving the General Assembly to organize the court by statute.The first such statute was enacted at the October 1778 legislative session. From that time until 1788, no one was appointed or elected specifically to serve on the Supreme Court of Appeals. Rather, the court was made up of the three judges of the High Court of Chancery, the five judges of the General Court, and the three judges of the Court of Admiralty, each of whom was elected by the General Assembly to life terms on those courts and served on the Supreme Court of Appeals ex officio.
The following judges were members of the court by virtue of having been elected judges of the High Court of Chancery, the General Court, and the Court of Admiralty, in the courts' order of precedence under the statute.The terms listed below run from each member's accession to those respective courts, which were created in 1776 and 1777, before the Supreme Court of Appeals was created. Ex officio membership ended on December 24, 1788, when the Supreme Court of Appeals became a separate body with five judges.
The High Court of Chancery:
The General Court:
The Court of Admiralty:
In December 1788, within the broad authority provided by the Constitution of 1776, the General Assembly re-organized the Supreme Court of Appeals as a separate court with five judges elected by the legislature to life terms.The General Assembly elected two incumbent judges of the High Court of Chancery and three incumbent judges of the General Court as the first judges of the Supreme Court of Appeals in their own right. While the court has remained separate ever since, the number of seats has varied. In January 1807, while one of the five seats was vacant, the General Assembly reduced the number to four with the provision that it be further reduced to three upon the next vacancy. The number was restored to five in January 1811.
The next significant alteration to the court came with the Constitution of 1851. It provided for the popular election of judges to the court, one from each of five districts, and imposed a twelve-year term.As the Emancipation Proclamation became effective in Virginia during the American Civil War (particularly after the Commonwealth surrendered in April 1865 and 13th Amendment became effective in December 1865), the 1851 Constitution's authorization of slavery became illegal under federal law. Thus, Virginia needed a new Constitution.
Federal authorities in occupied areas called a convention with delegates from occupied areas only, which proclaimed the Constitution of 1864. Although voters statewide never were asked to authorize it in a referendum, it came into (disputed) effect, until a new state Constitution was adopted by popular referendum, then undisputedly came into effect in 1870. Federal military authorities allowed voters statewide to elect delegates to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1868. Virginia voters overwhelmingly ratified that document the following year, except for certain provisions penalizing former Confederates, which failed. The Constitution of 1864 had ended popular election of judges, instead providing (for the first time) that the General Assembly would elect the judges from candidates nominated by the Governor.It also reduced the court to three judges. On June 3, 1869, during Congressional Reconstruction, Major General John Schofield (who governed Virginia as Military District No. 1 and also led efforts to allow separate votes on the proposed Constitution and anti-Confederate provisions), dismissed all three elected judges because a new federal law required removal of officials in Texas and Virginia with any record of service to the Confederacy. On June 9, Schofield appointed three Union sympathizers (whom he had previously appointed judges of lower courts, where they had performed satisfactorily) as their replacements. Those three judges served (and issued binding rulings) until the new state Constitution came into effect and legislators elected replacements.
The post-Reconstruction Constitution of 1870 eliminated the short-lived provision for gubernatorial nominations, as well as restored the court to five judges.None of the three Union men was elected to the Court by the General Assembly. Legislators did elect two of the three judges elected by voters, and three additional judges. Legislation also allowed the court's members to elect their President, and in March 1870, the new Court elected R.C.L. Moncure (who had the most seniority) their President (the third man to hold that title).
The Constitution of 1902 staggered the five seats by requiring that at the next election of judges, one judge would be elected to a term of 4 years, one to a term of 6 years, one to a term of 8 years, one to a term of 10 years, and one to a term of 12 years.It perpetuated this staggering by providing that any new judge elected to fill a vacancy would serve only the unexpired portion of his predecessor's term.
In 1906, the General Assembly re-elected each of the five incumbent judges, whose terms were all due to expire the following January 1, to fill the newly staggered seats. An amendment ratified in 1928 increased the number of seats to seven but it did not stagger the two new seats. The Constitution of 1971 eliminated the staggering of seats by providing that any new judge elected to fill a vacancy serve a full twelve-year term.
These are the former members of the court from 1788, in order of their accession to office. Those who served as presiding officer are designated by italics.
In 1895, for the first time, the General Assembly elected a full bench of five new judges.Consequently, any line of succession between a specific justice of the current court and a judge elected before 1895 necessarily would be arbitrary. However, when the General Assembly re-elected the incumbent judges in 1906 to fill the staggered seats created by the Constitution of 1902, it elected a specific judge to each seat: it re-elected Judge Cardwell for 4 years, Judge Whittle for 6, Judge Buchanan for 8, Judge Keith for 10, and Judge Harrison for 12. It therefore was possible to trace the line of succession of each of these seats, and the two new seats created in 1928, to its successive occupants.
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