The Bulletin

AG says staff can’t keep up with flood of new criminal appeals

By: - February 21, 2022 12:05 am

Attorney General Jason Miyares is introduced in the Senate gallery. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Attorney General Jason Miyares says his staff can’t keep up with a surge of criminal appeals being heard by the newly expanded Virginia Court of Appeals.

As of 2022, the court now provides by-right appeals in all cases and, in the case of criminal appeals, the attorney general’s office is responsible for representing the state.

In a letter to General Assembly leaders, Miyares wrote that under the old system the AG’s office handled approximately 250 criminal cases per year. Under the new system, he said the criminal appeals team was assigned more than 300 cases in January alone.

“In order for our appellate attorneys to give every Virginian with an appellate case the due diligence and attention they deserve, additional funding is critically important,” Miyares wrote. “Without it, the office will run into a significant backlog of criminal appeals in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Virginia Court of Appeals set to get six new judges after lawmakers agree to expansion

Miyares, who has faced derision from Democrats for his decision to cull staff and fire university counsel, called the issue bi-partisan. He noted that his predecessor, Democrat Mark Herring, had made a similar request, which was only partially granted, with lawmakers agreeing to add funding for 19 new positions last year, which would roughly double the staff.

But Miyares says the office needs at least 75 people to keep up with the news caseload

Democratic leaders in the Senate did not sound particularly sympathetic to Miyares this week.

Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, who spearheaded the effort to expand the court, said this week he was unaware of the issue.

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, who also worked on the issue, suggested Miyares find the positions internally, noting that had already fired attorneys tasked with investigating human rights abuses and announced plans to reconfigure a unit that investigates wrongful convictions.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.