Valley officials endorse Athey as replacement for retiring Prosser
By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Del. Clifford L. "Clay" Athey Jr. took an important step toward becoming a judge in the 26th Judicial Circuit on Wednesday when a group of Shenandoah Valley legislators endorsed him to fill a vacancy on the bench.
The announcement came in the form of a news release from the Shenandoah Valley Caucus, which includes eight delegates and three senators from districts covering parts of the 26th Judicial Circuit. The circuit covers the cities of Winchester and Harrisonburg, as well as the counties of Shenandoah, Warren, Frederick, Clarke, Page and Rockingham.
The chairman of the caucus, Del. R. Steven Landes, R-Weyers Cave, praised Athey's "intellect, demeanor and vast legal experience and legislative experience" in issuing the announcement.
"At the end of the day, and simply put, the Shenandoah Valley Caucus trusts Clay Athey," Landes said.
In a news release of his own, Athey, who is retiring from the General Assembly in January, said he was grateful for the unanimous support he received from the caucus.
"I am humbled and very appreciative of the support of my former colleagues in the General Assembly," Athey said. "I intend to work very hard to deserve the trust they have placed in me."
The vacancy was created by the retirement of John R. Prosser in March.
Athey, 51, has represented all of Warren and parts of Fauquier and Frederick counties in the General Assembly for 10 years. During that time, he has served as vice chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee and chairman of its civil law subcommittee. He also was mayor of Front Royal before his election to the House of Delegates in 2002.
Athey "has a good grasp of the law and would be a good person of judicial temperament," said Douglas Napier, Front Royal's town attorney. Napier practiced law with Athey at Pond, Athey, Athey & Pond.
Napier said Athey's appointment would help relieve a backlog of cases that has plagued the 26th Judicial Circuit.
"The judges are, from my perspective as a practicing attorney, they are very heavily overworked and could certainly use some relief," Napier said. "Just out of fairness to the judges in this circuit, they need additional judges."
The General Assembly will make the final determination by majority vote on filling the judicial vacancy.
Napier described Athey's support from legislators in the Shenandoah Valley as "more of an endorsement than an appointment, but it's an important endorsement."