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Arlington Judge To Retire, Raising Question Of Court Caseloads

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The Alexandria Circuit Court could be merged with its Arlington counterpart, pending the result of a study.
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The Alexandria Circuit Court could be merged with its Arlington counterpart, pending the result of a study.

Arlington County is already down one judge in its General District Court because members of the General Assembly decided not to fill the vacancy earlier this year, and will soon be down another as Judge Karen Heneber has announced her retirement.

The judge that next steps into the role may find it radically changed from her predecessors.

"What might happen is that when this judge gets filled, we might say, 'Before you accept the job, realize that you may not be sitting in Arlington, you may be sitting in Fairfax or Alexandria as well. Just wanted to give you a heads up,'" explains Courts of Justice Chairman Dave Albo.

By this time next year, a study will be finished examining the caseloads at every courthouse in the area. Some legislators are speculating that the study will show some courts are not as busy as others, which could lead to a reorganization in which judges would share caseloads across jurisdictions.

"Well, that means that case where it's two 20-year-olds who have got no money who have been married for a year and gets divorced gets the same credit as two technology executives worth hundreds of millions of dollars with four kids who can't freaking stand each other and want to kill each other," says Albo.

The weighted study is as-yet unfinished, and could take another year to complete. In the meantime, talk is already starting that some judges might have to be shared across jurisdictions. Del. Patrick Hope says he feels the caseload in Arlington will justify filling the vacancy.

"What I hear is that they are very busy over there, and that this realignment study will confirm that," says Hope.

Albo isn't so sure about that, and says he'll wait to see what the study finds, when it's finished next year.

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