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State of Virginia

History of Reform Efforts: Virginia

Formal Changes Since Inception

1776
Judges elected for life by the general assembly.

1850
Judges elected by the people. Tenure of justices of the supreme court of appeals changed from life to twelve-year terms. Tenure of circuit court judges changed from life to eight-year terms.

1864
Judges elected by the general assembly "from persons nominated by the governor."

1870
Judges elected by the general assembly; gubernatorial nomination no longer required.

1970
Name of the supreme court of appeals changed to "supreme court."

1983
Court of appeals created.

2002
Chief justice of the supreme court selected by peer vote to a four-year term. The statute does not apply to the current chief justice, who holds the position by virtue of seniority.

2008
SB 244 restructured the magistrate court system. Appointment and supervisory responsibilities transferred from the circuit court judges to the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court. Magistrate judges named after July 1st 2008 must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college, and chief magistrates must be members in good standing of the Bar. During their tenure, magistrates cannot practice the law or other business unless granted permission by Executive Secretary. Probationary period for magistrates is extended from six to nine months.