The Virginia General Assembly waged a tense partisan battle Monday over an appointment to the state Supreme Court.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe said at a news conference that newly appointed Justice Jane Marum Roush should get a chance to her make her case for why she should remain on the bench during a legislative hearing.
But at a subcommittee meeting a few minutes later, Republicans -- miffed that McAuliffe did not check with them before appointing Roush -- refused to grant the new justice an interview and began the process of ending her short time on the bench. Instead, they interviewed the Republican leadership's pick for the job, Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr.
The House of Delegates and the Senate were expected to vote on Alston's appointment later. The General Assembly was meeting in special session primarily for court-ordered congressional redistricting.
McAuliffe accused Republicans of rejecting his Supreme Court pick because they are angry that he called them into session for redistricting.
“I'm sorry that I had to interrupt the summer vacation of some legislators,” he said. “I have to do what I am under court order to do.”
McAuliffe was authorized to appoint a Supreme Court justice, subject to legislative confirmation, because the General Assembly was not in session when Justice LeRoy F. Millette Jr. announced his retirement.
“I don't give my authority over to the legislative branch,” McAuliffe said.
At the committee meeting on judicial interviews, Democrats vigorously questioned Alston about a missing state-required financial statement and about what they viewed as inconsistencies on other financial statements Alston has filed over the last few years. They also pressed him to explain decisions he made as a circuit court judge more than a decade ago that resulted in light sentences for defendants.
Republican Del. Jackson Miller of Prince William County complained that Alston was being “dragged through the mud.”
Del. Charniele L. Herring, D-Alexandria, said she meant no disrespect and was just trying to get answers to questions of public interest.
Alston calmly explained his financial disclosure statements and his court decisions.
Later, asked by reporters about the dispute over the appointment, he said: “Justice Roush is a very well distinguished judge and I consider her my friend.”