Although eight of 10 members of Chesterfield County’s delegation in the General Assembly reached an apparent consensus in January on the nomination of a replacement for Circuit Court Judge T.J. Hauler, two state delegates who did not participate in the process may thwart the majority.
According to a Feb. 24 report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dels. Dolores McQuinn (D-Richmond) and Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) support two black persons for positions on the Chesterfield Circuit and Juvenile and Domestic Relations courts, Chesterfield General District Court Judge Pamela O’Berry and private attorney Curtis Hairston. McQuinn told the daily that she is “deeply concerned that the Chesterfield courts do not represent the diversity of the community.”
The rest of the county’s state delegation — which includes Sens. Joe Morrissey (D), Ghazala Hashmi (D) and Amanda Chase (R) and Dels. Dawn Adams (D), Kirk Cox (R), Carrie Coyner (R), Roxann Robinson (R) and Lee Ware (R) — support Chesterfield J & DR Court judge Jayne Pemberton and private attorney Tara Hatcher, two white women.
Morrissey arranged a Jan. 20 meeting of the delegation three days after seven members of the delegation — Adams did not attend — interviewed numerous candidates over the course of 6 hours. Adams later sent an email that called Pemberton and Hatcher “strong choices,” the RTD reported.
Emails sent to McQuinn and Aird for this story were not returned.
The state House and Senate needs to approve a replacement for Hauler, who retired in December after serving seven years on the general district court and 23 years on the circuit court.
On Feb. 26, Morrissey said the party in power generally makes the decision to move forward with judge nominations, but he believes that every member of the Chesterfield delegation should have a voice in the process, Republicans and Democrats.
If the General Assembly does not approve Hauler’s replacement prior to adjourning March 7, Gov. Ralph Northam could appoint a replacement and the General Assembly would need to confirm that person in the 2021 session.
The Chesterfield County Bar Association endorsed eight candidates. D. Gregory Carr and Pemberton, both Chesterfield J & DR Court judges, were named “highly qualified” by the organization with 83 and 71 percent of the bar association members’ votes, respectively.
Six received “qualified” ratings, including O’Berry, Chesterfield assistant commonwealth’s attorney Reneen Hewlett, former chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney John Childrey, Chesterfield deputy commonwealth’s attorney Barbara Cooke, and private attorneys Travis Williams and E. Wayne Powell.
Among those the bar association did not endorse include former Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott Miles, Colonial Heights Commonwealth’s Attorney Gray Collins III, and private attorneys Leslie T. Haley, Brendan O’Toole and William H. Shewmake.