SCoVA Rejects 1 Republican Nominee for Special Master, Seeks More Names
The judges of the Supreme Court of Virginia (SCOVA) told the Republican leadership of the General Assembly to submit the names of three more nominees to serve as a Republican special master to redraw the state’s districts after rejecting one nominee and raising “concerns” about the other two. In its order issued Friday, November 12, the court told party leaders to submit at least three new names by Monday November 15. The court also instructed Democratic leaders to submit at least one additional name after one of their nominees had expressed a reservation about the requirement that the “two Special Masters shall work together to develop any plan to submit to be submitted to the Court.”
The Order also further addressed the role and requirements for Special Masters. “Although the Special Master candidates are to be nominated by legislative leaders of a particular political party, the nominees will serve as officers of the Court in a quasi-judicial capacity. Consequently, the Special Masters must be neutral and must not act as advocates or representatives of any political party. Before being appointed, the Special Masters must warrant that they have no ‘conflicts of interest,’ Code 30-399(F), that precludes them from prudently exercising independent judgement, dispassionately follow the Court’s instructions, and objectively applying the governing decision-making criteria.”
In addition, the Order stated that “The Special Masters appointed by this Court will not be permitted to consult with any political parties, partisan organizations, outside experts, or any other person or entity except for their personal support staff and individuals specifically authorized by this Court.”
The actions by the court were in response to letters from the General Assembly’s Democratic leadership, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, (November 8) and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (November 10), who sought disqualification of all three of the Republican nominees. Republican leaders had submitted their response on November 10, 2021.
The court’s order specifically disqualified Thomas Bryan, a statistician who had been paid a $20,000 consulting fee by the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus in September. The order said Bryan had disclosed the arrangement during the selection process, and the court concluded that it represented a conflict. The court also expressed concerns about the other two GOP nominees, Adam Kinkaid, executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, and Adam Foltz, who has done redistricting work for Republicans in other states. The court did not disclose which of the Democratic nominees had expressed reservations about serving.