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Kaine, House GOP headed for showdown?

Anita Kumar

Gov. Tim Kaine (D) said this week he plans to appoint a replacement to the Virginia Supreme Court if Congress confirms Justice Barbara Keenan to the federal bench before his term expires in January.

But several House Republican leaders vow to remove Kaine's pick and appoint their own if the governor does not wait for legislators to replace Kennan when they return to Richmond for their annual session in January.

"He's just doing it to be political,'' House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith said. "We'll treat them as a political appointee....It's our right not to confirm."

Griffith said there's no reason for Kaine to appoint someone when the legislature returns in less than two months and when Kaine's term expires Jan. 16. He said the state constitution gives the legislature the responsibility to chose judges.

But the governor can -- and does -- fill vacancies if the General Assembly is out of session. Those appointments require confirmation by the legislature when it returns.

Several names are being talked about among House members on possible appointments (if the Democratic-controlled Senate agrees) including Attorney General Bill Mims, who was on the short list in 2007 when there was a vacancy. Mims announced last week that he will become a partner at Richmond law firm Hunton & Williams at the end of his term in January.

President Obama nominated Keenan to the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September after U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner recommended her. But a vote on her confirmation has been delayed and it's unclear whether it will come before the Virginia legislature recovenes Jan. 13.

Kaine made his comments Monday afternoon after a wide-ranging interview with reporters and editors at the Washington Post.

He has named several others to judicial posts during his term when legislators were either not in session or unable to agree on appointments to keep continuity on the bench. Republican legislators frequently threaten to withhold their support of his appointments.

In Virginia, the state constitution requires the General Assembly to select judges, but there is no formal process.

In the past, the legislature's majority party tended to take control of the process and make choices with advice from legislators from the area that the judge will serve. But for the last two years, while different parties controlled different chambers, legislators have been unable to agree on some picks.

By Anita Kumar  |  November 18, 2009; 12:32 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Timothy M. Kaine  
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I would base my opinion solely on the merits of Governor Kaine’s choice had he NOT spent so much time away from the Commonwealth over the past couple of years.

Admittedly . . . his absence has angered me and reflects a dereliction of duty to the citizens of this fine state.

It is within his right to appoint a replacement should Justice Keenan be confirmed to the federal bench . . . it’s also within our rights to consider this a low down dirty move should the opportunity present itself.

Posted by: WeThePeopleofVirginia | November 19, 2009 3:29 AM | Report abuse

Gov. Kaine has proved he is able to pick fine jurists who have contributed greatly to the Court (i.e. Bernard Goodwyn and Lee Millette). How sad that because he is at the end of his tenure any well qualified candidate will be automatically rejected by political blowhards. With the departure of Keenan, there will be only one woman on the Court. Can Gov.-elect McDonnell pledge to appoint another female or will Virginia once again take a backwards step in diversity on our courts?

Posted by: 1tiredmom | November 20, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

1. Amen 1tiredmom.
2. WeThePeopleofVirginia: Tim Kaine did the state proud by having strong national connections. Unlike the providential,Bob "we don't need no federal government" McDonnell. Time Kaine has done more to help Virgina receive national attention and assistance then Mr. McDonnell can ever dream of doing. And when it comes to "dereliction of duty" the promiscuous Mark "Appalachian trail" Sanford and the GOP are leading the pack. Tim Kaine served his state and his country honorably, while Mark Sanford and Sarah "quitter" Pailin are a National disgrace and embarrassment to all other State Governors.

Posted by: Standardman76 | November 23, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

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