Richmond Circuit Court Appoints Judgeship to Tracy Thorne-Begland
Following the General Assembly’s decision on May 15 to vote down Tracy Thorne-Begland’s nomination for judgeship, the Richmond Circuit Court today vetoed their decision appointing Thorne-Begland as judge to the General District Court.
Various “legal heavyweights” from five of Richmond’s top law firms, including Richard Cullen, James V. Meath, Thurston R. Moore, John S. West and Thomas M. Wolfe, all signed a one-paragraph letter addressed to the current judge of the Richmond Circuit Court stating their support for his appointment.
Among them was Del. Richard L. Morris, R-Isle of Wight, who wrote a letter to the Republican caucus dated May 28 changing his decision, and supporting the judgeship of Thorne-Begland. He claims after careful research, Thorne-Begland did not in fact violate military law, for he based his previous decision on the mistaken belief that Thorne-Begland had appeared in his Navy uniform when speaking against standing navy policy on ABC’s “Nightline.” Del. Morris rebuttals each objection raised by lawmakers, in terms of Thorne-Begland’s conduct during service.
“Speaking out against an administrative policy is not a violation of Navy regulations,” said Morris outlined in his memo.
“Mr. Thorne-Begland did not speak against a military engagement or war, the commander-in-chief, or undermine the current administrative policy and that it should be changed,” the letter states.
“Nowhere in Navy regulations does it state that one cannot speak out against an administrative policy. In fact, throughout the history of the United States military there have been many who have spoken against certain administrative policies of the military in an effort to change those administrative policies.”
This monumental decision was announced as the Pentagon relayed to the public its first salute of gay military members during a June event in celebration of Gay Pride month. Michael Herring, Richmond’s Commonwealth Attorney, and Thorne-Begland learned of the Circuit Court’s decision this afternoon, where the entire office erupted into applause.
“I am humbled by the Circuit Court’s decision,” said Thorne-Begland.
“I look forward to serving the citizens of the City of Richmond as a jurist, and over the coming months, I hope that my service provides comfort to all Virginians that I remain committed to the faithful application of the laws and Constitutions of Virginia and the United States of America.”
Del. Morris points out that currently the administrative policy within the United States allows LGBT individuals to serve in the U.S. military, and even if individuals disagree with this policy, it is not substantial evidence to prevent judgeship from a highly qualified applicant, he said.
Three Republicans, who voted against Thorne-Begland, released a statement in response to Del. Morris’ letter, in which they argued their objection was misinterpreted.
“The difficulty with this judicial nomination turns on the time-tested issues of trust, sound judgment and the seriousness of the oath sworn to the nation by every member of the armed forces,” said the statement, authored by retired colonels Del. Rich Anderson, R-Prince William; Del. L. Mark Dudenhefer, R-Stafford; and Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William.
While Sen. A. Donald McEachin, Thorne-Begland’s chief sponsor in the Virginia Senate states that the debate of Thorne-Begland’s judgeship is only a positive reminder that persons of good faith and good will, disregarding the politics or political party, has the power to stand up and do the right the thing to move the community and commonwealth forward.
“He was beaming, he was humbled by it all,” said Herring. “The public’s reaction to his candidacy is certainly a measure, or some indication, of the public’s attitude of gay people serving in office.”
“It’s a great day for the city,” said Herring. “He’s a wonderful man, a talented lawyer and he’s going to be a great judge.”
Rachel Williams is a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University with a calling to be a voice to the voiceless; and passion is to bring gender equality and ethnic justice to the forefront of RVA.
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