RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – One day after Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall questioned whether fellow Republican delegate Manoli Loupassi backed openly-gay Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland for a judgeship because Thorne-Begland donated to Loupassi’s campaign, the Richmond lawmaker dismissed Del. Marshall’s accusation.
“Bob got five percent this week,” Del. Loupassi (R – Richmond) said in reference to Del. Marshall’s showing during the Virginia primary in which Del. Marshall (R – Prince William) lost his bid to be the Republican candidate for Virginia’s U.S. Senate seat. “He’s had a bad week. I forgive him.”
During a phone interview with CBS 6 Thursday, Del. Marshall said he planned to sponsor a bill forbidding lawmakers from sponsoring or voting for a judicial candidates if that candidate had given money to the lawmaker in the previous five years.
Del Marshall asked rhetorically whether Del. Loupassi’s support for Thorne-Begland was “payback.”
“I’ve probably raised $600,000 in the last five years. I don’t know how much he [Thorne-Begland] gave me,” Del. Loupassi said Friday.
According to information obtained on the Virginia Public Access Project website, Thorne-Begland donated $500 to Del. Loupassi in 2011. The Richmond lawyer donated $1,750 to Democratic Senator Donald McEachin (D – Henrico). Sen. McEachin also sponsored Thorne-Begland’s bid to become a Richmond General District Court judge.
Last month Del. Marshall organized state lawmakers to reject Thorne-Begland’s judicial nomination. Del. Marshall argued Thorne-Begland’s history as a gay rights activist made him unfit to be a judge.
Thursday, the Richmond Circuit Court circumvented lawmakers and appointed Thorne-Begland to an interim seat on the bench. [Read more]
“We appointed the judges who appointed him. So they are calling into question our own judgment. That is not smart, on the part of these circuit court judges,” said Del. Marshall in a phone interview with CBS 6. “To place someone on the board like that who, when he was offered an opportunity to rebut a presumption that he wasn’t committing a felony, under the uniform code of military justice, declined to do so, is a disgrace.”
Thorne-Begland’s appointment is short term, lasting only about seven months.
The General Assembly must still give its consent in February 2013, 30 days after the session begins. He will need 55 votes in the House of Delegate, and 21 votes in the Senate for a permanent judgeship.
During the phone interview, Del. Marshall also questioned whether it was proper for Del. Loupassi, who practices law in Richmond, to potentially argue a case before Thorne-Begland given the pair’s financial and political relationship.
“I am a practicing attorney. I win some and I lose some,” Del. Loupassi said. “The reason why you’re losing and the reason why you’re winning is because the judges are making determinations not based upon the lawyer whose in front of them, but based upon the facts that they hear.”
Del. Loupassi said Thorne-Begland would have an opportunity to remove himself from a case should be feel uncomfortable.