Judicial Candidates Hold Forum; Camblos Stacks the Deck

All seven people seeking to be named as the replacement for Judge Paul Peatross attended a forum held last night by Del. Rob Bell. (NBC 29, CBS 19, DP) Bell did not attend his forum, and he likewise missed the bar association’s forum. Only two of those candidates were recommended by the bar — Judge Robert Downer and prosecutor Cheryl Higgins — but the General Assembly is functionally free to pick anybody that they want. The purpose of the forum was to have a committee of five people, selected by Del. Bell, quiz the applicants and render their verdict on who would make the best candidate. The only un-endorsements from the audience were from people speaking out against Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Camblos. The positive comments were largely in favor of Judge Downer and Camblos. Though, as it turns out, Camblos’ praise was a setup.

One reporter tells me that, after talking with some of the speakers and all of the judicial candidates, he caught Jim Camblos stacking the deck. All of the other candidates respected process, while it turns out that Camblos convinced five people to attend the forum to stand up and speak in support of him. That kind of thing is, unfortunately, par for the course for Camblos.

Judge Peatross’ retirement takes effect at the end of this month, so the General Assembly will need to take this up in the next couple of weeks.

16 Responses to “Judicial Candidates Hold Forum; Camblos Stacks the Deck”


  • In a related vein, a look at the composition of Bell’s hand-picked “citizen’s advisory council” may be instructive – it’s composed of a former prosecutor, a former former police officer, a former probation officer, a victim’s rights advocate, and a community activist.

    I trust that the individual council members will each devote their best efforts to the process and render a measured judgment. However, with at least 4/5 of the council having a pro-law enforcement background, it’s not difficult to see where Del. Bell is headed with this.

    Expect a Camblos endorsement.

  • I was puzzled by the makeup of this group, too. Where are the advocates for the wrongly accused? Defense attorneys? Criminologists? It really does seem like Bell has chosen who he intends to support, and has put together a group that he thinks is likely to support his guy.

  • I’d say that Bob Downer’s deck was a little stacked too. He had almost as many endorsements as Camblos. One was his neighbor and the others were all members of the same law firm. In fairness, they did not appear to be there at Mr. Downer’s specific request, and all of Mr. Camblos supporters began by saying that they were there at Camblos’ request.

    Bell was a prosecutor, so his bias toward prosecution seems understandable. Why does that necessarily indicate support of Jim Camblos? There were 3 current prosecutors present and one former prosecutor. Another one of those (Worrell) is a Republican, so Camblos wasn’t even the only Republican prosecutor. I believe that Zug and Higgins are Democrats. Worrell was the only individual there who spoke as much about supporting the rights and voice of the defendant as much as those of the victims. I thought he was particularly persuasive. Higgins said that she ‘loved the courtroom’ but not that she cared deeply about seeing justice done for everyone. (no doubt she does, but that’s not what she said.)

  • I’d say that Bob Downer’s deck was a little stacked too. He had almost as many endorsements as Camblos. One was his neighbor and the others were all members of the same law firm. In fairness, they did not appear to be there at Mr. Downer’s specific request, and all of Mr. Camblos supporters began by saying that they were there at Camblos’ request.

    And that’s the difference. It appears that many people decided, individually, that they’d like to show up and support Downer. Camblos, on the other hand, was only able to get anybody to speak out in support of him by convincing people to show up and comment, people who had not otherwise intended to do so. Downer’s support is (apparently) organic; Camblos’ was arranged.

  • Mrs. Higgis is a former prosecutor who now is a private attorney who works in both state and federal courts, criminal and civil and she keeps her political ffiliation to herself, her husband is a cop so I do not imagine she is too much of a lefty. Jon Zug is a independant . I agree with mamaz, Worrell is quite impressive in his speeking ability and is very good with a jury, and yes he is a black republican. Look for him to make a move towards the Albemarle County Commonwealth Attorney’s job if Camblos gets the judgeship

  • I’m not supporting Camblos but what is the big deal? If I’m running for office/judgeship and people came to and ask how they could help. I might say write a letter or show up at this forum.

    You have no way of knowing what motivated people to come and give their support . If could be for exactly the same reason, they volunteered/were asked. You observation of Downer orgainc support is just a guess. Perhaps Camlos’s supporters were just more honest about their motivation.

    It was part of an open forum and a “dog and pony” show. I would wager that nothing was decided by this and they pretty much know who will get the job today. They just making sure by taking a little time.

    I am thankful that we don’t have elected judges but that would be a real nightmare.

  • I agree. It would be one thing if Camblos contrived to hide the fact he’d asked the people to speak on his behalf, but it seems there was full disclosure.

    A little strange there wasn’t at least one crime victim who felt compelled to speak on his behalf in gratitude for the work his office did on his/her “case.”

  • Im not supporting Camblos but what is the big deal? If I’m running for office/judgeship and people came to and ask how they could help. I might say write a letter or show up at this forum.

    Camblos used this forum to manufacture the appearance of representative public support that does not actually exist. The other six participants understood that this was not a rally, but a forum, and so did not subvert its purpose. Had every candidate encouraged supporters to show up and speak on their behalf, it might have been a radically different event. Instead, only Camblos did, presumably because he knew that nobody would support him otherwise.

    You have no way of knowing what motivated people to come and give their support .

    As I explained, a reporter talked to them and found that each of them was motivated by Camblos’ request.

    You observation of Downer orgainc support is just a guess. Perhaps Camlos’s supporters were just more honest about their motivation.

    Again, the reporter spoke with Downer and the supporters, and found that those individuals were not asked to show up.

  • Camblos used this forum to manufacture the appearance of representative public support that does not actually exist.

    Were these people lying or not members of the public? If they were saying what they believe to be true your assertion is unfounded.
    that still does not discount that others may have been less direct on why they were there. If Camblos’s people were honest and if he wasn’t suppose to do that then it will hurt him. But it doesn’t seem to be wrong.

    I have watched, teachers, taxpayers, anti growth people and others motivate the people who think the way they do to come out to speak. It’s free speech and unless people were untrue or forced to speak then there is nothing wrong with what happen.

    There were also people there who spoke against Camblos, what if they knew one of the other canidates? It doesn’t make what they said any less important

    I hope your reporter friend prints that story a well. Otherwise it’s just gossip.

  • as to the reporter I meant to say he should report what he learned from his interviews of Camblos’s supporters, not saying that he must bring up the other issues I mentioned. That would just be a bonus.

  • There was mention that there was going to be some sort of joint “review” by Bell and Toscano, and Bell decided to do his own thing. What, if anything, does Toscano plan to do in the way of a public review? Granted – he has little if any say in the outcome (as a Democratic delegate), but it would be nice to see something other than this event seemingly crafted to result in good press for Bell and Camblos. Doesn’t mean the mainstream media will cover it, but the MM is becoming less relevant every day.

  • The person reporting that no crime victim spoke must have been asleep or not in attendance; I recall at least two victims/families who gave emotional, enthusiastic recollections of Mr Camblos’ help.

    The persons relying on a reporter’s interview afterward to learn that Mr. Camblos solicited support from his long-time associates (e.g. Anglican priest) also may not have been listening; these supporters stated it up-front in their remarks.

    Included in the advisory panel were a former social worker & Peace Corps volunteer, SARA director, and community activist. Didn’t strike me as heavy on Law Enforcement.

    I thought all the candidates were well qualified. Mr. Camblos, the most prominent public official, gets the most heat, both from the Left (cvillenews) and the Right (Rivanna Rifle & Pistol Club, for his support for additional gun-control laws in Albemarle). ‘Tis always thus for the “man in the arena” (Teddy Roosevelt quotation).

    Judge Downer received undiluted accolades, citing his experience and demeanor. He was impressive but humble, despite feeling poorly, due to illness.

  • The persons relying on a reporter’s interview afterward to learn that Mr. Camblos solicited support from his long-time associates (e.g. Anglican priest) also may not have been listening; these supporters stated it up-front in their remarks.

    You’re right, I wasn’t listening. That’s because I was at home and, like most people, gain much of my news via reporters.

  • @ right there:

    Thanks for the clarification.

  • >Included in the advisory panel were a former social worker & >Peace Corps volunteer, SARA director, and community activist. >Didn’t strike me as heavy on Law Enforcement

    Hmm, I think that right there might be confused. The only former Peace Corps volunteer and social worker I heard from was an applicant, Patricia Brady. (And it’s worth noting that she had one supporter there, a satisfied former client who appeared to be there of her own accord). The panel included the former director of probation and parole, a former police officer, a former prosecutor & the former director of SARA, as well as the community activist. I assume that Mr. DeLoria, while he used to be a prosecutor, now performs criminal defense work in his private practice, so there was someone who is directly concerned with the rights of defendants.

    I’m really not sure how one would create a citizens’ panel that includes individuals who know enough about the real work of a judge to be able to make an informed decision without including folks who have a particular stake in the system. It seems reasonable to me that a circuit court judge should be evaluated most heavily on the basis of her or his ability to manage criminal, vs civil, cases. Not only do those cases comprise the majority of those seen in circuit court, but they have the greatest impact on the community in my non-lawyer, citizen’s opinion. Looked at that way, the panel included individuals who are familiar with the criminal justice process, are concerned about victims, concerned about defendants, and concerned about the outcomes of cases on the community. That seems fair to me. It’s interesting to think about, though. I don’t like the system of electing judges, but the appointment system is also rife with politics. What does the ideal process for appointing judges look like?

    As for the ‘organic’ support of Judge Downer, I believe as I said that most of his supporters came from the same law firm. He may not have solicited their support, but I doubt that several (4? or was it just 3?) people from one firm independently decided to appear on his behalf. The only other supporter was one of his neighbors, who had very kind words, but little to say that was relevant to his judicial capacity, apart from praising his demeanor. (For example, she commended his commitment to his health, as he’s a runner. Nice, but no particular comfort to a defendant facing a life term or a victim hoping that her assailant will be sentenced appropriately).

  • The above poster is right, and I’m duly corrected; sorry about the confusion.

    The points she makes about the criminal justice process are good ones; there are numerous stakeholders in the system. The criminal (or civil) justice system must do right by the individuals, and the groups, it serves.

    Individuals include, as stated above, the victims (and their families, associates, etc), the defendants, and the arresting officers (cops who perceive their efforts are wasted, or perverted, will soon learn to alter their behaviors in ways not helpful to the citizens they serve).

    The groups that need to be served include all the folks who work in the criminal justice system itself (who are generally acutely aware of how efficiently & effectively it’s being run), and, of course the law-abiding public at large (the ultimate “consumer”, but consisting of folks who’d rather ignore the whole thing until something bad happens).

    The judge selected will be pivotal in serving the often disparate needs of all these clients. The judicial political appointment system, like democracy, may be a poor way to select; the only worse schemes are all the others.

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