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December 10, 2018

Fisher optimistic about election to judgeship

Photo/Don Del Rosso
Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) introduces Fauquier Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher (right) to House and Senate Courts of Justice committee members Friday in Richmond.
I’ve kind of accomplished everything I’ve wanted to accomplish. I’m ready to move on to the next level.
— James P. Fisher
James Paul Fisher
• Age: 56

• Home: Near The Plains.

• Judgeship sought: 20th Judicial Circuit position vacant since Jan. 1, 2017, when Judge Burke McCahill retired from the Loudoun County Circuit Court bench.

• Work: Fauquier County commonwealth’s attorney, 2011-present.

• Experience: Chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney, Loudoun County, 2003-11; private practice, 1993-2003; assistant commonwealth’s attorney, Fairfax County, 1988-93.

• Education:
Law degree, Capital (Ohio) University, 1988; bachelor’s degree, political science and communications, Shepherd (W.Va.) University, 1985; Stonewall Jackson High School, Manassas, 1981.

• Family: Wife, Nono; children, James, 24; Joseph, 20; Audrey, 15

• Hobbies: Fishing, reading, recreational shooting and sports.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
His interview for a circuit court judgeship lasted about three minutes Friday in Richmond.

“I thought it went well, because of the lack of questions,” Fauquier Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher said after his brief appearance before 10 members of the Virginia Senate and House Courts of Justice committees. “Pretty quick. They seemed satisfied with my explanation of my background.”

The joint panel asked Mr. Fisher no questions.

The veteran prosecutor seeks appointment in the 20th Judicial Circuit, which includes Fauquier, Rappahannock and Loudoun counties.

Mr. Fisher, 56, also sounded confident about his prospects because he received the endorsement of Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-26th/Harrisonburg), chairman of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

No other candidate interviewed Friday for the position, vacant since Jan. 1, 2017, when Judge Burke McCahill retired. Mr. Fisher remains unaware of any other candidates for the job.

Judge McCahill’s successor will preside in Loudoun County.

A key part of the vetting process, the two courts of justice committees decide whether judgeship candidates qualify for the positions. The full General Assembly will elect judges during the 45-day legislative session that begins Jan. 9.

Introducing Mr. Fisher to the committee members Friday morning , Sen. Obenshain, whose district includes Rappahannock, called him “an outstanding” prosecutor who has “done a great job.”

“I endorse him and am asking for certifications for Jim Fisher for this judgeship,” the influential legislator told the committee.

Mr. Fisher then gave committee members an overview of his 30-year legal career.

In private practice for 10 years, he litigated a range of civil and criminal cases, the Fauquier resident said.

As “outside counsel” for Fairfax County’s family services department, he handled numerous child abuse, neglect and parental rights cases.

He also took on personal injury cases, representing plaintiffs and defendants, Mr. Fisher said.

His “public service” career includes 20 years as an assistant prosecutor in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

The 20th Circuit judges appointed Mr. Fisher in June 2011 to succeed Fauquier Commonwealth’s Attorney Jonathan Lynn, whom the General Assembly elected to the juvenile and domestic relations court bench. Mr. Fisher won election that November and re-election in 2015 — both times unopposed.

In concluding his brief remarks before committee members, Mr. Fisher summarized his interest in the judgeship.

“I feel like I’ve touched a great deal in the practice of law and would be well prepared and humbled to serve, if I could, on the circuit court for the 20th Circuit.”

He first “thought” about the judgeship “over the Thanksgiving holiday,” after learning that Leesburg-based attorney Alex Levay had decided to drop his pursuit of the post, Mr. Fisher said.

In January 2017, the Loudoun bar association endorsed Mr. Levay for the job.

“He decided at the last minute not to do it,” Mr. Fisher said. “It was a total fluke.”

Mr. Levay couldn’t be reached Monday for comment.

He decided to seek the judgeship because, “I’ve kind of accomplished everything I’ve wanted to accomplish” as a prosecutor, Mr. Fisher said after the joint committee interview. “I’m ready to move on to the next level.

“I’ve got so much experience. I think I’ve got a lot to contribute.”

Besides Sen. Obenshain, he made his interest in the job known to Senators Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27th/Upperville) and Richard H. “Dick” Black (R-13th/Leesburg) and Del. Michael Webert (R-18th/Marshall), the prosecutor said.

“I’ve tried to touch bases with everyone,” Mr. Fisher said.

One of the district’s four judges, Jeffrey W. Parker predominantly hears cases here and in Rappahannock.

Circuit court judges serve eight-year terms and earn $171,120 per year. Mr. Fisher's commonwealth’s attorney salary totals $146,929 annually, according to the county human resources department.

Last Thursday Mr. Fisher said he would “temporarily suspend” his commonwealth’s attorney re-election campaign “for a brief period, until the General Assembly has an opportunity to act.”

But, “in the absence of an appointment, I will resume robust campaign efforts in the new year.”

If the 140-member General Assembly elects him, Mr. Fisher believes state law would “make (Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney) Chuck Peters the acting” commonwealth’s attorney “from July 1 forward.”

In August, Christopher B. Morehouse, who works as an assistant prosecutor in Culpeper, announced plans to seek the Republican nomination for commonwealth’s attorney. The Fauquier County Republican Committee in the spring will decide how to select its nominees for the November 2019 ballot.

Married with three children, Mr. Fisher lives near The Plains.

He earned a law degree from Capital (Ohio) University in 1988 and a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications from Shepherd (W.Va.) University in 1985. Mr. Fisher graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in 1981.

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
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