Benchmark: Claude Worrell confirmed as juvenile court judge
For 20 years, Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Claude Worrell has prosecuted some of Charlottesville's most notorious cases. His days arguing in front of the bench soon will be over, and Worrell will be sitting on the bench in the 16th Circuit Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
The General Assembly confirmed Worrell the evening of April 3. "I was helping conduct a mock trial at UVA," says Worrell. Delegate Rob Bell took a photo of the screen noting his 86-0 confirmation and sent it, he adds.
"I think he will be an excellent judge," says Bell.
"I'm very pleased to be chosen, and I'm going to do whatever I can to make the functions of juvenile court as efficient as I can for everyone," says Worrell in one of his last interviews, as he likely won't be talking to reporters after he dons the black robe July 1.
Worrell succeeds Dwight Johnson, who once sentenced a couple to eight years for serving alcohol at an underage party.
His current boss, Dave Chapman, is already freaking out about the imminent departure of his top deputy and his 20 years of experience. "It's killing me," laments Chapman. "Already, it's a terrible loss."
Chapman notes how, working in a small office, Worrell was adept at handling a broad range of cases. "With Claude, it doesn't matter what the case is," says Chapman. "I can give it to him."
And the Charlottesville commonwealth's attorney's office won't have any edge with the new judge, says Chapman. "In the early years, he's certain to be hearing cases from a jurisdiction other than Charlottesville," says Chapman. "That's typical."
Among the cases Worrell prosecuted are William Beebe, the 12-step rapist, Jeffrey Kitze, the released graduation rapist accused of stalking, and James Halfaday, the City Council candidate who lived in Albemarle.
Worrell brooked no nonsense with fraternity hijinks, prosecuting frat brothers for a prank-kidnapping of a brother in 2009, and he once subpoenaed current Hook editor Courteney Stuart as a witness for a drunk-in-public story she'd covered.
Worrell has long been interested in a judgeship, yet he did not get the recommendation from the Charlottesville Albemarle Bar, which held a candidate forum in December. The bar gave the nod to Louisa attorney Deborah Tinsley.
"Deborah Tinsley is a fine person, and a good lawyer," says Worrell. "It didn't surprise me at all the bar recommended her.
Worrell says he wasn't disheartened when his fellow lawyers endorsed another candidate. "The bar opinion is important," says Worrell, "but the General Assembly has an opinion, too."
And that's the one that matters.