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Judge Rideout Retiring From Bench

Local state delegation hopes for smoother selection procedure.

After 14 years as a juvenile and domestic relations judge in Alexandria, Stephen W. Rideout is retiring. He announced his decision in a Dec. 2, letter to the executive secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia. Members of the city’s state legislative delegation also received copies.

“These past 14 years have been an extremely rewarding experience that I would not trade for anything,” Rideout said in his letter. “I am most appreciative of the opportunity that the Virginia Legislature has given me on three separate occasions to serve the citizens of Alexandria and the citizens of the Commonwealth as a judge of the Alexandria Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. I look forward to continuing that service in new and different ways as a retired judge…”

Rideout’s retirement leaves a vacancy that will be filled by the legislature during the upcoming General Assembly session.

“At least that’s what we hope will happen,” said Delegate Brian Moran (D-46). “We have received several applications from people who are interested in the vacancy. After the Alexandria Bar Association meets and interviews candidates, they will submit a name or names to us, we will interview candidates and then submit a recommendation to the Courts and Justice Committee. If the legislature votes on the recommendation, it will avoid all of the problems we have had over a vacancy that occurred when we were not in session.”

THAT VACANCY on the Alexandria Circuit Court has yet to be filled because Republican members of the General Assembly objected to the all Democratic Alexandria delegation nominating a judge. The local delegation recommended Judge Nolan Dawkins, the other juvenile and domestic relations jurist.

“I have submitted Judge Dawkins’ name to the Courts and Justice Committee for consideration along with the Republicans’ nominee,” Moran said. “We will hold hearings on both vacancies in early February.”

At least four people have applied for Rideout’s job. Tom Cullen and Molly Sullivan are both Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorneys in Alexandria; Barbara Beech is a local attorney and Mary Elliot is an attorney in the City Attorney’s office. Others have expressed interest but none have submitted formal applications as of this deadline.

“I expect that we are going to see a large pool of applicants because many believe that there could be two vacancies if Nolan Dawkins is appointed to the Circuit Court vacancy,” said State Senator Patricia S. “Patsy” Ticer (D-30).

“I also hope that the number of applicants will discourage others from getting involved in the selection process as they did with the Circuit Court vacancy,” Ticer said.

AFTER THE LOCAL delegation selected Dawkins for that vacancy, a group of Republican legislators from around the state held additional interviews and recommended Tim Battle. “That is not how the process is supposed to work,” said Delegate Marian Van Landingham (D-45). “Let’s hope it works better this time.”

Rideout has implemented a number of innovative programs during his tenure. Due largely to his efforts, Alexandria has been designated one of very few model courts in the Commonwealth. His truancy program is also considered a model.

“Judge Rideout has been an integral part of the juvenile justice system in the city and in Virginia,” Moran said. “His contributions have been enumerable.”

Rideout will retire on Aug. 1, 2004.