Questionable cut

Published 9:52 am Saturday, March 27, 2010

Virginia lawmakers faced some tough decisions in crafting a biennial budget that balanced expenditures with plummeting state tax revenues.

Few services were unscathed by the budget, including essential services like public education and law enforcement. By and large, legislators seemed to do a good job of spreading around the pain.

Still, we have to question the wisdom of leaving vacant the circuit judgeship to be vacated when Chief Judge Westbrook Parker retires this summer. The post, which serves Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, as well as Suffolk, is among a number of judgeships that the General Assembly, as a money-saving strategy, declined to fill.

In this case, the relatively small amount of money to be saved could pale in comparison to the potential consequences.

Our main concern is further delays in a criminal-justice system whose wheels already turn too slowly for our taste. Caseloads for the circuit’s other judges surely will grow, translating into slower disposition of defendants’ cases.

Delegate Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, says the vacant judgeships could be revisited by the General Assembly if state revenues improve. Lawmakers would be wise to do so.