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Frederick judge to end long career on March 1
By Alex Bridges - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Longtime Frederick County Circuit Court Judge John R. Prosser plans to retire March 1, ending a law career spanning more than 40 years.
Prosser announced his intentions on Monday from the bench in Frederick County Circuit Court, much to the surprise of prosecutors and defense attorneys alike.
"It has been my privilege and honor to serve as a circuit court judge for the past 14 years," Prosser said from the bench before resuming a criminal trial Monday afternoon.
Prosser made a similar statement in a letter dated Friday to Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr.
"It was very surprising to hear," said Frederick County Commonwealth's Attorney Glenn Williamson. "Certainly, in one respect, I'm disappointed to hear it because Judge Prosser has been a fine judge and he'll certainly be difficult to replace, if in fact the legislature sees fit to replace him."
"I'm certainly happy for him if that's what he wants 'cause he's earned his retirement," Williamson added. "He's done a fine job and I wish him the best and I hope he enjoys it."
Prosser, a 1961 graduate of James Wood High School, began practicing law in 1968.
Since replacing Judge James Berry on the bench in 1997, Prosser has presided over hundreds of criminal and civil cases, primarily in Frederick County. The judge also presided over Clarke County Circuit Court until several years ago.
Prosser has given no reason as to why he planned to retire.
The judge's retirement will create a vacancy in the 26th judicial circuit. The state currently has 35 vacant judge seats, according to Williamson.
The General Assembly holds the authority to appoint people to judgeships, but when the legislature will fill the vacancy remains unclear.
Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, who serves on the House Courts of Justice Committee, stated in an e-mail Monday it remains possible but not certain that legislators could fill the judicial vacancy during the current session.
If legislators can proceed with finding a replacement this session, delegates and senators from the 26th Judicial Circuit would interview candidates and try to reach a consensus on an appointment, Gilbert stated.
If the legislature does not fill the vacancy, the governor can appoint a circuit court judge if the assembly is out of session, Gilbert added.
Prosser submitted his retirement forms on Friday to the office of the executive secretary to the Supreme Court of Virginia, according to human resources analyst Susan Rudolph. While the judge's letter states March 1, Rudolph said Prosser's retirement becomes effective "at the close of business Jan. 31."
"He will be missed," Rebecca Hogan, clerk of the Frederick County Circuit Court, said Monday.
Gilbert also works as an assistant prosecutor for the Frederick County commonwealth's attorney's office.
"Judge Prosser is a very good judge and I have enjoyed practicing law in his court," Gilbert stated in his e-mail. "I was surprised to hear of his decision to retire, but I wish him well."
Prosser's departure means prosecutors and defense attorneys will have to get to know a new judge.
"It will certainly make my job more difficult 'cause with Judge Prosser everybody got a fair shake," Williamson said. "We knew somewhat what to expect and it made it somewhat easier to negotiate plea agreements, and now things are unknown. We don't know what it will bring but we'll work through it."