Tracy Thorne-Begland, the openly gay Virginia prosecutor who was denied a judgeship earlier this month by legislators concerned that his orientation might affect the way he interprets the law, might still have a chance at the job. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, when the legislature rejects a candidate for judgeship, the six other judges in Richmond's Circuit Court have the authority to fill the post, paving the way for Thorne-Begland to take the bench as an interim judge until the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
The 12-year veteran prosecutor is currently Richmond's chief deputy commonwealth's attorney. Thorne-Begland's nomination to the bench was blocked by Republican legislators, who, led by Delegate Bob Marshall, alleged that a nominee who "does not support that section of our constitution barring same-sex legal relationships" in incapable of properly adjudicating Virginia law. Marshall filed an amendment to have Thorne-Begland's name removed from the roster of judges up for confirmation. It passed, a development that Thorne-Begland's boss, Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring, called "an embarrassment" for the state of Virginia.
Thorne-Begland was nominated to sit on Richmond's District Court, where he would rule in criminal, not civil cases. Judges in Virginia normally serve six-year terms. If appointed to the position by the other six judges on the Circuit, former Navy fighter-pilot Thorne-Begland will serve until the legislature convenes in January and vote whether to confirm him again. By then, his supporters hope, his work on the bench will speak for itself, clearing away any obstacles to his remaining in the seat for the full term.
Judicial terms typically begin July 1.
Watch video of Thorne-Begland speaking at a 2009 rally to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," embedded via YouTube, below:
(screen-grab of Tracy Thorne-Begland via YouTube)