June 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Prominent Richmond lawyers back gay prosecutor’s judgeship

Law gavel, gay news, Washington Blade

Five prominent Richmond lawyers on Tuesday backed a gay prosecutor's nomination to the city's General District Court. (Photo via Wikimedia)

Five prominent Richmond lawyers on Tuesday backed a gay prosecutor’s nomination to the city’s General District Court.

“We understand that the court is considering appointing Tracy Thorne-Begland to the District Court for the city of Richmond,” they wrote in a two sentence letter to Richmond Circuit Court Judge Richard D. Taylor, Jr., that the Blade obtained. “We believe he would be an outstanding jurist and support his appointment.”

Former Attorney General Richard Cullen, chair of McGuire Woods, and former Virginia Bar Association President James Meath, who heads Williams Mullen, both signed the letter that comes nearly a month after the Republican-controlled House of Delegates rejected Thorne-Begland’s nomination. Thurston R. Moore, chair emeritus of Hunton and Williams; John S. West, managing partner of Troutman Sanders and Thomas M. Wolf of LeClair Ryan are the three other signatories.

“In the course of talking about this, we all just felt that this was the wrong decision and believe the right thing to do was to write to the court who was considering apparently an interim appointment just as individuals and member of the legal community to let them know we support the judgeship,” Meath told the Blade earlier on Wednesday. “Judgeships should be based on merit—it’s a meritocracy system. We believe that he’s qualified and it’s pretty much as simple as that.”

Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) stressed before the May 15 vote that the former Navy pilot “misrepresented” himself by failing to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in 1992.

Marshall did not immediately respond to the Blade’s request for comment. State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico,) who sponsored Thorne-Begland’s nomination in the state Senate, welcomed the lawyers’ support.

“It affirms what we in the Richmond area delegation have said: Tracy Thorne-Begland will be a fantastic jurist should he be given the opportunity,” he told the Blade.

The six Richmond Circuit Court judges could appoint Thorne-Begland on an interim basis because lawmakers did not fill the vacancy. McEachin told the Washington Post that the prosecutor is “definitely interested” in the judgeship, but neither he nor Meath would provide a potential timeline.

Thorne-Begland continues to decline comment.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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