Virginia Supreme Court Justice William C. Mims, a Republican who earlier served as a state lawmaker and state attorney general, has announced his plans to retire from the court next spring.

Mims, who would have been eligible for reappointment in anticipation of his term ending March 31, wrote in a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam (D), House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Springfield) and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Alexandria) that he wants to “discern other opportunities to serve” as he turns 65 next year.

A Harrisonburg native who graduated from the College of William & Mary and the George Washington University Law School, Mims was a state delegate from 1992 to 1998 and a state senator from 1998 to 2006. He served as Virginia’s chief deputy attorney general from 2006 to 2009 and was appointed to succeed Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R) from 2009 to 2010 as the latter sought the governorship. In the spring of 2010, McDonnell appointed Mims to the Supreme Court and the justice took office that April.

Though generally a conservative, Mims had the respect of some progressives like the editorialists of the Norfolk-based Virginian-Pilot, who welcomed his appointment to the court, writing, “His work ethic, mental agility and sound judgment have earned him the reputation as a consensus builder in many venues where consensus is a rare commodity.”

The jurist has said he plans, among any other duties he may assume going forward, to continue teaching. He has served as an adjunct professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School and the Appalachian School of Law. He noted that Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Civic Leadership is bringing him on to teach beginning this fall.

The justice’s impending retirement comes as the partisan balance of the seven-member court is maximally tight. Mims is one of four Republicans on the court, the others being Donald Lemons, Stephen McCullough, and Teresa Chafin. Its Democratic minority is composed of S. Bernard Goodwyn, Cleo Powell, and D. Arthur Kelsey.

Virginia’s General Assembly will be tasked with appointing Mims’s successor next year. By that time, it is uncertain what the partisan leanings of either of the branch’s two chambers will be. Democrats currently hold a 21-to-18 majority in the state Senate and a 55-to-45 majority in the House of Delegates. 

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Bradley Vasoli is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to bradvasoliwriter@gmail.com.
Photo “Justice Mims” by VPM. Background Photo “Virginia Supreme Court” by Morgan Riley. CC BY 3.0.