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Rally for the Judge

Nearly 100 people came together on the steps of the Alexandria courthouse Monday to show their support for Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Nolan Dawkins, to be named to the city’s Circuit Court bench.

Dawkins was selected by the Alexandria Bar Association and then by the city’s state legislative delegation last spring. Republican members of the House, however, selected their own candidate and intend to put that person’s name forward in January when the General Assembly convenes.

The Circuit Court vacancy was created when Judge Alfred Swersky retired in July and will remain unfilled until January because of this controversy.

“We are very pleased with the turnout and we just wanted to reiterate the message that we followed a process that has been used successfully for many years and that we selected the most qualified jurist who applied,” said State Senator Patricia S. “Patsy” Ticer.

Delegate Brian Moran (D-46) agreed, telling the crowd, “The Alexandria delegation intends to put Judge Dawkins’ name forward in January when the General Assembly convenes and we don’t know who is going to put forward any other name.

“It is unheard of that an entire state delegation would be ignored and that a committee of people who don’t live here and don’t know the local issues would come here and select someone who was never even considered by the local Bar Association. Judge Dawkins is clearly qualified and should be appointed.”

GOVERNOR MARK WARNER expressed his continued support for Dawkins in a letter to Chief Circuit Judge Donald Haddock, saying, “Earlier this year, the Alexandria Bar Association endorsed Nolan B. Dawkins who currently serves on the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to fill this vacancy. Shortly thereafter, the Alexandria Legislative delegation recommended that I appoint Judge Dawkins.

“I interviewed Judge Dawkins and concluded that he would make an excellent Circuit Court judge. During his tenure, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in Alexandria has been recognized as one of the best in the Commonwealth … Based on his outstanding credentials, reputation for integrity, distinguished judicial record and commitment to public service, I indicated to Judge Dawkins that I wished to appoint him to the Circuit Court.

"However, Judge Dawkins informed my office that he was reluctant to accept the appointment without assurances that he would be elected to a full term by the General Assembly when it convenes in January of 2004. As Judge Dawkins observed, he would have to resign his current position in order to accept my appointment, and, if the General Assembly failed to elect him, he would be left with no job at all.

“My office and I have spent several months seeking to obtain the assurances that Judge Dawkins asked for in order to accept my appointment. I have informed Judge Dawkins that my administration will give him full support during the legislative session. I have spoken with legislators in both houses of the General Assembly, informing them of my strong support for the judge. Despite these efforts, Judge Dawkins is unfortunately still not sufficiently confident in the status of the position to accept it…” Warner wrote.

Alexandria City Councilman Ludwig Gaines, who helped organize Monday’s rally said, “It is very important for us to send a strong message that this is about selecting the most qualified candidate for the position and about local sovereignty.”