Friday, December 18, 2015

The Virginia Judiciary

History, Structure, Selection, and Composition
By James Mims
James Mims is a class of 2015 Albany Law School graduate. He previously attained his bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion University in 2011, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Public Service. James concentrated his studies on the field of governmental administration and regulation while at Albany Law. 
James supplemented his law study with significant internship experiences in the governmental sector. During the summer of 2013, James interned with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Regional Counsel in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he assisted with litigation of tort and employment discrimination claims. During his second year, he completed a field placement with New York Department of State Office of General Counsel where he worked with local government counsel to provide technical assistance to local officials and the public in relation to land use matters. In the summer of 2014, he served as an executive intern in The Norfolk Emerging Leaders Program in Virginia. There he coordinated with community business leaders to research and formulate entrepreneurial growth initiatives.
James plans to pursue a legal career in the public sector through which he can make a positive impact in underserved communities. His paper, which analyzes the Virginia judicial system’s correlation with norms of American judicial process, was prepared for Prof. Bonventre’s Judicial Process Seminar.

This paper analyzes Virginia’s judicial system in four main parts. It begins by tracking the historical formation of the commonwealth’s court system from its beginnings in the Colonial Era. It considers the correlation between Virginia’s Colonial Era courts and prominent judicial philosophies in American jurisprudence.

Next, it explores the current structure and operation of Virginia’s judiciary. This section explores the Virginia judiciary’s current organization in relation to judicial process norms concerning access to justice. Following the discussion of structure, the paper analyzes the judicial selection process employed by Virginia law. It addresses the role that politics and merit play in the selection process.

Lastly, the paper examines a few of the recent prominent judges that have risen to the pentacle of the Virginia judicial system, the Virginia Supreme Court. This section focuses on the judges’ paths to their distinguished seats, their individual significance, and their judicial philosophies as demonstrated by majority or dissenting opinions in major cases during their tenure. In doing so, the paper determines whether the judges’ philosophies match any of the main types of judicial philosophies traditionally propounded in the American judicial system.
To read the paper, open HERE.