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Virginia Democrats reshape Court of Appeals with eight new appointments

Members of the party said the selections would make the court the most diverse in the state’s history.



Virginia Democrats quadrupled the number of Black judges and doubled the number of women on the state’s Court of Appeals with the election of eight new judges Tuesday.

Members of the party said the selections would make the court the most diverse in the state’s history.

“I think it’s important that when individuals look at the court, that they see they too can be on one of the highest courts in the state,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, who chairs the chamber’s courts committee. “And I think when we have a diversity of perspectives, it makes the decisions better.”

The unusually large block of appointments was made possible by legislation passed earlier this year that expanded the number of seats on the court from 11 to 17, part of a legal reform that will broaden the court’s jurisdiction to guarantee appellate review of all civil and criminal circuit court decisions. Virginia has been the only state in the country that doesn’t grant such a by-right appeal.

The expansion drew accusations of court packing from Republicans, who also criticized the secretive approach Democrats took last week as they met with nominees in private to make their selections.

Supporters frame the court’s expansion as an important reform that has drawn bi-partisan support from within the legal community. But Democrats also weren’t shy about the fact that it would also give them an opportunity to make a decisive mark on a court whose make up has been shaped by years of Republican control.

“It’s truly historic and I think we’re going to make a huge difference in the court and I hope we can bend the court to a more balanced court,” said Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, who leads the Senate’s court committee.

To GOP accusations of court packing, Edwards responded, “Well, they picked the courts the last 20 years.”

From the start, Democrats said they would make diversity a priority in the appointment process.

The court is currently made up of mostly White men, with one Black judge and three female judges sitting on the panel. In addition to the six new seats created as part of the court’s expansion, Democrats also filled two vacancies, one of which has remained empty for two years after Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate were unable to agree on a candidate.

In addition to gender and racial diversity, Democrats said they also prioritized electing judges with varied professional experience. Most of the judges currently on the court either previously served as prosecutors or worked in the Attorney General’s office, lawmakers said.

The new class of judges includes two current and former public defenders and a longtime legal aid attorney — professional backgrounds that have never before been represented on one of the state’s high courts.

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, a defense lawyer who was among the group of lawmakers who led the selection process, said the tendency toward elevating prosecutors to the bench has had real world consequences for criminal defendants. As an example, he cited precedent set over the past several decades limiting judges’ discretion to dismiss criminal cases — case law Democratic lawmakers have worked to reverse with legislation since they took majorities in the House and Senate in 2020.

“I don’t think there’s any question that the court would benefit from having more members with experience in criminal defense,” Surovell said.

During public interviews lawmakers conducted Tuesday, several candidates said they expected to draw on those backgrounds when they took the bench.

“I’ve seen how cases are brought when you have all the resources in the world and I’ve seen how cases are prepared when you have very little,” said Lisa Lorish, an assistant federal public defender from Charlottesville. “And I think I would bring that experience with me.”

Doris H. Henderson Causey, who is the managing attorney at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, told lawmakers her work providing civil representation for low-income Virginians has helped her appreciate the plight of the disenfranchised and marginalized.

“There’s a constituency that has never been represented on that court and those are the people that I serve,” she said.

Democrats also elected:

  • Dominique A. Callins, a family law lawyer from Front Royal;
  • Vernida R. Chaney, the former senior assistant public defender in Fairfax and assistant capital defender;
  • Frank K. Friedman, a well-known appellate lawyer who practices in Roanoke.
  • Norfolk Circuit Court Judge Junius P. Fulton III, who oversaw the development of the city’s drug court, an alternative sentencing program, and presided over it for two decades — longer, he says, than any other judge in the state;
  • Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Ortiz; and
  • Stuart Raphael, a former solicitor general of Virginia who works in appellate law and lives in Arlington.

Republicans opposed the selections at nearly every step of the process, accusing Democrats of being unusually secretive as they winnowed down the list of applicants in private.

Judicial selections, which are the sole purview of the General Assembly, are typically partisan exercises prone to accusations of cronyism. (Republicans made headlines in 2019 when they elected a sitting senator’s sister to the Supreme Court of Virginia.)

But members of the GOP said Democrats broke with tradition by interviewing candidates as a group in private last week and only making their selections public on Monday afternoon — less than 24 hours before lawmakers would be called to vote on them.

Virginia Democrats meet in private to choose finalists for eight Court of Appeals appointments

Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, walked out of the Senate committee meeting Tuesday morning as candidates were being interviewed after voicing frustration that GOP members had only been provided with background and application materials about the candidates that morning.

Republicans also voiced frustration that no alternative candidates would be considered or interviewed by Democrats, though Democrats in the Senate did offer to interview anyone put forward by the GOP. At the same time, however, they made clear those candidates had no chance of ultimately being selected because Democrats in the House were unwilling to make a similar concession.

On the Senate floor, Obenshain said he appreciated the gesture, but wondered whether it would be “a fool’s errand.”

Edwards responded that, “the characterization of a fool’s errand is the senator’s characterization, but I think the senator gets the point.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of women currently sitting on the Virginia Court of Appeals. 



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Island Shrimp Co. opening in former Conch Republic space at Rocketts Landing next March

A second location of the HOUSEpitality Family concept is set to open this spring.



Local restaurant group HOUSEpitality Family announced that it will open its second Island Shrimp Co. location at Rocketts Landing in March 2022.

The restaurant will be located next to The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing in the space that was formerly occupied by Conch Republic. The first Island Shrimp Co., also known as ISCo, location opened in 2019 at Chesterfield Towne Center. The new location will offer the flavors of the tropics for a city-inspired port-to-plate experience in an artistic seaside environment.

“We’re looking forward to adding another HOUSEpitality Family concept at Rocketts Landing, an area that has been special to us since we opened The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing in 2009,” said Kevin Healy, owner of HOUSEpitality Family restaurant group. “At the time, The Boathouse was the first restaurant to utilize the riverfront location along the James and our whole team is excited that the second location of Island Shrimp Co. will be right on the water.”

Menu items will include favorites like garlic shrimp, lumpia and lobster and shrimp fried rice and the drink menu will feature beach-inspired cocktails like the hurricane, painkiller, mojito and the ISCO-original Blue Typhoon.

Island Shrimp Co. at Rocketts Landing will offer an ambiance that marries city and seaside. Like the original Island Shrimp Co., HOUSEpitality Family considered the full dining experience and will incorporate several Instagram-ready photo opportunities when developing the space.

Island Shrimp Co. is currently hiring for a number of positions, including lead cooks, line cooks, servers, bartenders, hosts, dishwashers and support staff. Those interested in applying for a position at the new Island Shrimp Co. can visit



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Mending Walls Artwork Stolen

Stealing this art makes no sense and just seems to be a hurtful act.



Spotted on the Mending Walls Facebook.

Mending Walls has been about bringing people together through creative means. It is baffling that someone would try to silence this conversation.

Our purpose is to inspire empathy and connection. We were very excited to invite you all to see the final display created by the wonderful local artist who we’ve been highlighting over the last couple of weeks in collaboration with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Richmond, VA)

The art was installed on November 17th and by the morning of the 18th artwork work was missing without a trace.

Events like this assures us that our work and purpose is causing change.

“If your voice had no power, they would not try to silence you.”

Mending Walls is a public art project that brings together public artists from different cultures and backgrounds to create murals that address where we are now in society and how we can move forward through understanding and collaboration. They’re responsible for many of the iconic murals you see in town.



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What’s Going Down in Downtown for the Holidays

This extensive list was provided by Venture Richmond. The fun starts this weekend with the biggie RVA Illuminates on Friday, December 3, 5:45PM at Kanawha Plaza,



Venture Richmond has compiled a list of activities to plan your holidays Downtown with family and friends, so be sure to check our website for updates throughout November and December.

Craft + Design 2021 

Friday-Sunday, November 19-21 at Main Street Station, 1500 E. Main St.

Now in its 57th year, Craft + Design is a museum-quality show that has garnered a reputation for showcasing the finest in contemporary craft. Shoppers spend the weekend browsing the work of artists from all over the country. Awards are presented in ceramics, precious metals, glass, wood and recycled materials, contemporary design, innovative use of traditional craft materials and fiber. Fee for tickets.


Shop Small Saturday

Saturday, November 27, 11AM-6PM, in Downtown RVA

Visit Downtown RVA and support the local shops and small businesses like Little Nomad, Verdalina, Someday, Maven Made, Shockoe Bottom Clay and more for Shop Small Saturday, a nationally celebrated shopping holiday that highlights local and small business owners! To read more about shopping downtown, visit


Richmond Symphony presents Let It Snow!

Saturday, November 27, 8PM at Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.

It’s Richmond’s favorite holiday musical tradition – now on Thanksgiving weekend! Celebrate the season with family, friends and the Richmond Symphony at the Carpenter Theatre. Carols, classics and sparkling holiday favorites – even a visit from Santa! Conducted by Chia-Hsuan. Fee for tickets.

RVA Illuminates

Friday, December 3, 5:45PM at Kanawha Plaza, 801 E. Canal St.

A time-honored Richmond tradition will continue in 2021! See RVA shine when the switch is flipped ON to light up downtown’s skyline for the 2021 holiday season at 6:00pm. RVA Illuminates is back in-person this year with ABC8 News airing live complete coverage of performances, uplifting stories, and the official lighting. Be sure to join in the festive fun by lighting up your own storefronts and homes too! This event is coordinated by the City of Richmond Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities. Free event.


Christmas Under the Clocktower

Friday, December 3, 7PM at Main Street Station, 1500 E. Main St.

The second annual event where local nonprofits show off their creativity by designing Christmas trees! Vote for your favorite in-person or online December 3-December 19. Free event.


RVA First Friday

Friday, December 3, 5-11PM in downtown’s Arts District along Broad Street

Show Broad Street some love and holiday spirit when you explore galleries, shops, restaurants, nonprofits and more on the first Friday of every month at RVA First Friday along and around Broad Street. Free to attend, fees for shopping.


Christmas Eve with C.S. Lewis

December 3-12 at Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.

In this festive production, viewers find C.S. Lewis at his home near Oxford on Christmas Eve hosting a group of Americans who are Christmassing in England. They are about to experience an unforgettable assortment of Yuletide recollections which stimulates a whole range of emotions – curiosity, laughter, gladness and even some tears. Above all, they will discover how an encounter with JRR Tolkien forever changed Lewis’s Christmas celebrations. Fee for tickets.


Dominion Energy Christmas Parade

Saturday, December 4, starts at the Science Museum of Virginia at 10:15AM, travels eastbound on Broad St., ends at 7th and Marshall Sts. downtown

Welcome back the Dominion Energy Christmas Parade for its 38th annual parade celebration featuring colorful floats, giant helium balloons, high school and college marching bands, princesses, superheroes and returning favorites including the trademark Wells Fargo stagecoach, the VCU Peppas and Legendary Santa! The parade also airs LIVE on WTVR CBS6. Free event. Rain or shine.


Richmond Symphony presents A Baroque Holiday

Saturday, December 4, 7:30PM at the Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.

The greatest story ever told. The most majestic music ever conceived. Be there for the greatest moments from Handel’s Messiah with the Richmond Symphony, Richmond Symphony Chorus, and soloists. Plus, other Baroque classics to brighten your holiday musical celebration. Fee for tickets.


Richmond Makers Market: Holiday Cheers

Sunday, December 5, 12-6PM at Basic City Beer Co., 212 W. 6th St.

This Makers Market features new makers monthly ranging from candlemakers and crafters to confections and works of clay. Head to Manchester’s Basic City Beer Co., a dog-friendly brewery, for an afternoon of shopping and supporting local RVA makers.


Movies on Brown’s Island: Elf

Saturday, December 11, 5:30PM on Brown’s Island, 500 Tredegar St.

Movies on Brown’s Island, presented by Dominion Energy, is an outdoor family activity, brought to you by Venture Richmond Events. Pack your chair or blanket, bring a picnic dinner, then find your perfect spot on Brown’s Island and enjoy an evening featuring Elf while taking in the stunning views of the James River and Downtown’s holiday skyline.  

Seating is first come, first served. Bringing blankets and/or chairs for comfort is recommended. No seating will be provided. Vendors for the event include Strawberry Street Events and Espresso-A-Go-Go. No pets are allowed on premises during the movies. Parking is available at the Belle Isle parking lot and on-street parking is available along 2nd and 5th Streets. Gates open at 5PM; Show starts at 5:45PM. Tickets are $5 per person (ages 5 and under no ticket needed) and can be purchased in advance online or at the gate.


Richmond Boat Parade of Lights

Saturday, December 11, 5:30PM along downtown’s riverfront, best views from Libby Hill Park in Church Hill and at Rocketts Landing

Each year, boaters decorate their boats and converge on the James River for a parade that marks the beginning of the holiday season. Grab the family and gather at one of the several viewing sites to see the boats and enjoy holiday entertainment. Free event.


Richmond Night Market

Saturday, December 11, 5-9PM at 17th Street Market, 100 N. 17th St.

Richmond Night Market is a monthly, open-air night market held at the 17th Street Market and features a family-friendly experience filled with music, programming, and independent artists and vendors. Shop the local artists and support the Shockoe Bottom restaurants too. Entertainment and programming include live music and cultured and diverse activities for all ages! Free to attend, fees for vendors.


Richmond Ballet’s The Nutcracker

December 11-23 at the Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.

The Nutcracker makes its triumphant return this 2021 holiday season! Accompanied by the Richmond Symphony, Clara and her adoring Nutcracker, the glittering butterfly and dancing Russian bear will once again charm audience members of all ages. This is the final opportunity to see this version of our beloved production before it’s reimagined for 2022. Fee for tickets.


Winter Wander: Celebrate Court End

Sunday, December 12, noon-4PM at The Valentine, 1015 E. Clay St.

Save the date and join The Valentine for some winter cheer on their picturesque block of East Clay Street! There will be hot beverages, family crafts and games, and live music. You can also take a self-guided tour of the historic Court End neighborhood and hop on a shuttle to visit nearby cultural sites for open houses and other activities. Free event.

A Black Christmas in Jackson Ward

Saturday, December 18, noon-7PM at 10 E. Leigh Street

Join RVA Black Farmer’s Market and The Exclusive Blacklist as they present a merry time celebrating the holiday season with a vendor market, food vendors and live music happening in the heart of the Jackson Ward neighborhood. Free to attend, fee for vendors. 


Continued updates and potential schedule changes can be found on Venture Richmond’s website:



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