The Chair of the Supreme Court-appointed working group had reached out to attorney Sheldon in August with several questions. It’s a very impressive group and an important and significant report. This is clearly the biggest suggested change in the Virginia Judiciary since the creation of the Virginia Court of Appeals in 1985. The suggested changes are wise and it is time for them to occur.
The first major change, granting all criminal defendants a first appeal as of right to the Virginia Court of Appeals which is badly needed. Virginia is the only state in the country that fails to provide an appeal as of right. The second major change – granting civil litigants an appeal as of right in all cases (right now the court of appeals only has jurisdiction of a very limited subject matter of civil cases) is an excellent suggestion and would bring more confidence and trust to the judicial process.
These changes will come at a cost – it will be necessary, as the report notes, for the general assembly to allocate resources for an expanded court of appeals (more judges and staff), but these changes are well due now and I expect they will be met with strong support by the legislature.’