How Judges Are Selected In Virginia

Many states use elections to select the judges who preside over their courts.  Virginia is one of only two states, the other being South Carolina, in which judges are selected by vote of the legislature.[1]  Article VI, section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia, states: “The justices of the Supreme Court shall be chosen by the vote of a majority of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly  . . . . The judges of all other courts of record shall be chosen by the vote of a majority of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly . . . .”[2]

The Constitution provides for those occasions when the General Assembly may not be in session when a judicial vacancy occurs.  At those times, the Governor of the Commonwealth may appoint someone to fill the post until thirty days after the start of the next General Assembly session.  Should the General Assembly then elect that person, he or she would then begin a full term in the post. [3]

Virginia judges are required to be a resident of Virginia and to be lawyers admitted to the Virginia bar for at least five years before becoming a judge.[4]

Unlike the justices of the United State Supreme Court who are appointed for life, justices of the Virginia Supreme Court serve terms of 12 years.  Judges of the Court of Appeals and the circuit courts serve eight year terms.  Reappointment at the end of a judge’s term is typical, but not guaranteed.[5]  The Constitution provides for the General Assembly to set the retirement age for judges.[6]  Judges who reached the age of 70 were required to retire 20 days after the next session of the General Assembly convened.  During the 2015 General Assembly session the retirement age was increased to 73 years of age.  The change, however, will apply only to those judges “who are elected or appointed to an original or subsequent term commencing on or after July 1, 2015.”[7]   If a judge was appointed or re-appointed prior to July 1, 2015 and will reach the age of 70 during the course of that term of office, his or her retirement age is still 70.

About the Author: Tammy Ruble is an attorney with personal injury law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. She serves as a resource on issues in her special fields of expertise which include the crafting of Complaints and documents relating to infant settlements, wrongful death settlements, due diligence, and discovery.


[1] http://aja.ncsc.dni.us/

[2] The Virginia Constitution can be found at http://constitution.legis.virginia.gov

[3] Virginia Constitution, Article VI, Section 7.

[4] Virginia Constitution, Article VI, Section 7.

[5] http://hamptonroads.com/2015/01/assembly-doesnt-reappoint-4-hampton-roads-judges

[6] Virginia Constitution, Article VI, Section 9.

[7] You can see both the original statute and the way it will read after July 1, 2015 at http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?151+ful+CHAP0773