The Virginia General Assembly has elected Court of Appeals Judge Teresa Chafin to an opening on the Supreme Court of Virginia. The process included some controversy because Chafin’s brother and former law partner, state Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell, lobbied his GOP colleagues on her behalf.
Sen. Chafin did not vote Thursday when the Senate voted 36-0 to elect Judge Chafin. The House vote was 97-0.
Judge Chafin is considered well qualified for the position and was on the appeals court prior to her brother being elected to the General Assembly.
She is a former Circuit Court judge who was installed on the Court of Appeals in 2012, a year before her brother was elected to the House of Delegates. He shifted to the Senate in 2014.
Sen. Chafin’s advocacy on behalf of his sister created buzz in his caucus and on Capitol Square, with some lawmakers privately saying it did not look good.
Teresa Chafin will replace Justice Elizabeth McClanahan, who announced in January that she is retiring Sept. 1. Chafin’s election will keep some geographical balance on the high court; McClanahan was the only justice from Southwest Virginia, which is where Chafin is from.
Sen. Chafin is a member of the Courts of Justice Committee and he remained on the panel earlier this month when his sister and three other candidates were interviewed for the opening, nodding as his sister spoke to lawmakers.
“The Supreme Court of Virginia and our commonwealth will be well served by the addition of Judge Teresa Chafin,” House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said in a statement. “Justice McClanahan served admirably, but will be succeeded by a jurist equal in stature, ability, and experience. I am proud of the General Assembly’s track record of elevating women to not only the Supreme Court, but also to judicial posts across Virginia.”
Chafin’s term on the Supreme Court will last 12 years.
Judge Clifford L. “Clay” Athey was elected to replace her on the Court of Appeals. Athey was a Republican member of the House of Delegates from 2002 to 2011, serving a swath of the Shenandoah Valley, before then-Gov. Bob McDonnell appointed him a judge in 2012.