Virginia Judge Denied a Second Term

From Associated Press

State legislators have voted to deny a second term to a judge who had been accused of sexual harassment, derailing the judicial career of the first black woman to become a Circuit Court judge in Virginia.

The fight over whether to reelect Newport News Judge Verbena Askew divided the General Assembly along racial lines.

A House committee voted 13 to 7 not to certify Askew as qualified for another eight-year term. A Senate committee voted 10 to 5 against Askew.


The judge had no comment, said Nicholas Evers, her administrative coordinator.

There was a documented pattern suggesting Askew tried to undermine Brenda Collins at work after she filed a sexual harassment complaint, said Delegate Robert McDonnell, chairman of the House committee.

Collins, former administrator of a Hampton-Newport News drug court, said she was pursued by the judge for nearly a year, including during a 1999 trip to a Miami conference.

Collins claimed she and Askew were alone at a hotel table when the judge said she wanted to have an intimate relationship with her. The city of Hampton paid $64,000 to settle Collins’ complaint. Askew has denied the allegations.

Askew’s supporters pointed to her record of handing out tough sentences to criminals, but Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw said that did not warrant a second term.

“If we reappoint this judge, we are saying that if you do all right in the courtroom we don’t care what else happens around that courthouse,” Saslaw said.

Askew’s critics also cited a survey of Newport News attorneys, who gave the judge low marks for efficiency and courtroom demeanor.


One Askew supporter said the hearing was filled with hearsay, innuendo, rumor and conflicting testimony.