The Virginia General Assembly on Friday elected Henrico County General District Court Judge Mary Malveaux as its last-minute pick for a spot on the state Court of Appeals.
On Friday afternoon the Senate voted 40-0 and the House of Delegates voted 98-0 to elect Malveaux, who in 2011 became the first African-American woman to serve full time on the Henrico court and now presides at its chief judge.
Malveaux fills the vacancy created by Thursday’s election of Court of Appeals Judge Stephen. R. McCullough to the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Malveaux was certified by the House of Delegates Courts of Justice Committee after a brief interview Friday afternoon.
“She is known to be one of the best jurists in central Virginia,” said Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond, an attorney who has practiced in Malveaux’s courtroom for years.
Malveaux’s selection comes at the end of a long-running standoff between the legislature and Gov. Terry McAuliffe over a vacancy on the Supreme Court. That feud came to an end Thursday, when Republicans elected McCullough to the high court, creating a vacancy on the appeals court just before the legislature was scheduled to adjourn.
Malveaux is a Richmond-area product of the Collegiate School who graduated from the University of Virginia and University of Richmond Law School.
During her committee interview, Malveaux was praised for her breadth of legal experience, which included stints working both sides of criminal law and complex civil litigation.
Malveaux said she relishes the intellectual curiosity, determination and hard work required of judges, and the appellate court would bring an “elevated level” of legal argument.
“I think being a judge is one of the highest honors you can have,” Malveaux said.
Members of the committee and other lawmakers praised Malveaux as a rising star.
Del. Gregory D. Habeeb, R-Salem, said that while he wished the legislature had more time, Malveaux being quickly put to a vote “shows the respect that people have for this nominee.”
“Under the circumstances, this is really an extraordinary result,” Habeeb said.
Her election to the Court of Appeals denies McAuliffe the chance to make a recess appointment to the position.
Under the Virginia Constitution, the governor may make recess appointments when the legislature is not in session, but those appointments are subject to the approval of the General Assembly, which has the constitutional authority to elect judges to full terms.
Until this year, legislators traditionally elected such recess appointees to full terms with little debate.
But after providing initial indications that they supported former Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Virginia, ranking General Assembly Republicans clashed with McAuliffe over his handling of Roush’s appointment last summer.
A seven-month dispute ended when Roush failed to win election in the legislature, as did the candidate Republican leaders put forth as Roush’s replacement, Court of Appeals Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr.
Senate Republicans then nominated former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, before Cuccinelli declined a day later, paving the way for McCullough, a former Cuccinelli deputy, to ascend to the state’s highest court Thursday.
McCullough’s ascension sparked a dash for lawmakers to elect his replacement before they adjourned.
“She’s going to be a fabulous judge,” said Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, calling Malveaux a “skilled practitioner” with experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney.
But the Democratic leader said the legislature should have kept Roush on the Supreme Court, and said the judicial selection process that unfolded over the course of the General Assembly session “unduly politicized the court.”
“The cloud does not hang over the judges we elected today,” McEachin said of Malveaux and lower court judges who received promotions as a result of her ascension to the appeals court.
“It hangs over the legislature.”