Members of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Bar Association will meet Jan. 7 to determine whom they will recommend to be the city's next Circuit Court judge.
Local attorneys David B. Franzén and Joseph W. Wright III along with Richard E. Moore, juvenile and domestic relations court judge for the 16th judicial district, are on the short list of candidates vying for the endorsement to replace Edward Hogshire, whose term ends Jan. 27.
The association will select its nominees by a process of elimination wherein members vote for the most qualified candidate, according to the group's bylaws. The General Assembly ultimately will make the selection.
"It's not binding, but we hope our endorsement carries weight [with lawmakers]," Page Williams, chairman of the association’s endorsement committee, said before a five-person candidate forum Dec. 9.
Afterward, the committee selected Franzen, Wright and Moore as "highly qualified" candidates.
State senators and delegates who represent the 16th Circuit submit the names of prospective judges to Courts of Justice committees in the state Senate and House of Delegates. Committee members then interview candidates to determine who is qualified for the position. Judges serve eight-year terms.
Hogshire, who does not grant media interviews, was unanimously selected by the General Assembly in 1998. He edged out Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman to secure the bar association's primary nomination for the position.
The association evaluates candidates' integrity, diligence, commitment to public service, legal knowledge and ability, professional experience and judicial temperament in deciding whom is most qualified.
Franzén, 55, works in private practice at Feil, Pettit & Williams and serves as a substitute general district court judge. He listed experience, knowledge, analytical ability and a sense of justice and fairness among the most important qualities for a Circuit Court judge.
"It is important that people feel a sense of fairness in justice that is being meted out," he said at the forum.
Moore, 58, served as a deputy commonwealth's attorney in Charlottesville and Albemarle County and as assistant commonwealth's attorney in Orange County before taking the bench as a juvenile and domestic relations court judge last year.
When asked at the forum about the position's learning curve, Moore said he'd go about preparing for unfamiliar territory, such as equitable distributions and partition suits, the same way all successful lawyers do: by reading and listening.
"I'd listen to the people who know what they're talking about," he said. "There are few things I value more than competent attorneys in court."
Joseph W. Wright III, 59, works in private practice at Dygert Wright Hobbs & Heilberg. He pledged to continue the city's tradition of using jail diversions such as work release for nonviolent offenders.
"The court can be a participant in providing these opportunities to people to help turn things around," he said.
Neal Walters, 52, of the Charlottesville firm Scott Kroner, and Claude V. Worrell II, 50, who left his position as an assistant Charlottesville commonwealth's attorney in April to take the bench as a juvenile and domestic relations court judge for the 16th judicial district, also are candidates for the position.