Although a compromise was offered to get through a disagreement over appointment of two judges to Chesterfield courts, the effort failed last week before the Legislature finished its session.
Joe Morrissey, a Democratic first-term state senator who represents eastern Chesterfield County, said that he and six other legislators agreed to replace retired Circuit Court judge T.J. Hauler with Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Jayne Pemberton and appoint Travis Williams, a black attorney, to fill Pemberton’s seat.
Williams is a Chesterfield resident and has served 17 years as a substitute judge in Chesterfield General District Court, Morrissey said.
The compromise offer came after eight state legislators who represent various parts of Chesterfield agreed on Pemberton and Tara Hatcher, two white women, in January.
Two black women — Dels. Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) and Dolores McQuinn (D-Richmond) — did not attend two meetings in January when seven members of the Chesterfield delegation interviewed some candidates and discussed their qualifications. Morrissey said his office sent Aird and McQuinn four emails about the meetings.
McQuinn and Aird later said they supported two black persons — Pamela O’Berry and Curtis Hairston — for the positions.
Del. Dawn Adams, a white woman, did not attend the January meetings but sent a letter of support for Pemberton and Hatcher. However, Adams, Aird and McQuinn did not respond to the compromise offer last week, Morrissey said.
On Sunday, March 15, Morrissey said it was “very irresponsible” for the women to let Hauler’s seat go unfilled. Hauler retired in December.
Seven members of the Chesterfield delegation agreed that appointing Pemberton and Williams was a good compromise, Morrissey said. Pemberton was deemed “highly qualified” by the Chesterfield County Bar Association, which rated O’Berry and Williams as “qualified.”
Aird and McQuinn represent only 6 percent of Chesterfield County and the other members of the delegation combined represent 90-plus percent, Morrissey said.
“The people who are being hurt are the citizens of Chesterfield County, and they are going to remember that when the election rolls around next year,” Morrissey said.
Since the Legislature did not appoint Hauler’s replacement, Gov. Ralph Northam can appoint someone, who will need confirmation by the Legislature next year.