Stephanie Shortt: Here come da judge

Floyd County Commonwealth's Attorney Stephanie Shortt
Floyd County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Shortt

As our story on the web site for The Floyd Press announced Tuesday and is also printed in today’s edition, Floyd County will lose Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Murray Shortt to the Virginia Court bench on December 1.

Virginia’s General Assembly Monday approved Shortt’s appointment to a six-year term as Juvenile-Domestic Relations Court judge for the 37th Judicial District, which includes Floyd, Carroll, Montgomery counties and other areas.

Where the new judge, created in a new seat, will sit is still open.

Shortt has just over 13 months remaining in her second term as Commonwealth’s Attorney and Circuit Judge Marc Long, with a lot of input from political powers and Judicial Branch leaders, select an interim attorney to serve out that term.

Some legal insiders say Floyd Attorney Harrison Schroeder has a shot at the appointment and, we are told, is interested in campaigning for the job for a four-year term.

Republican attorney Eric Banscome, who lost to Shortt in 2007, has also expressed an interest along with a couple of other attorneys.

Judge Long, who hands down tough sentences and wants jail terms as part of plea bargains with drug distribution convictions and other felonies, will want a prosecutor who, like Shortt, believed in jail time.

But some of Floyd’s defense attorneys will not mourn Shortt’s departure as the county’s prosecutor.  Some have criticized her unwillingness to bargain and have had complaints about other things.

County law enforcement personnel, however, praised Shortt’s performance on the job and what they saw as her willingness to listen to their thoughts and recommendations on sentences.

Friends and foes, for the most part, agree on one thing about the departing Shortt:  She was a major improvement over former Commonwealth’s Attorney Gordon Hannett, a controversial prosecutor with a poor record of victories in court, who lost in the primary in 2007.

When he left office, Hannett stole hard drives from his office, and admitted his guilty in a plea bargain with a special prosecutor.

That plea culminated with a punishment of “community service,” which meant he picked up trash along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Hannett, also served as a reserve Army officer in Iraq during his term in office in Floyd County.  Then Circuit Judge Ray Grubbs appointed Shortt to serve in Hannet’s place during his active duty time.  Hannett refused Grubb’s action and hired Christiansburg Attorney Dennis Nagel to serve as an assistant and said he would run the office through email from Iraq.

Grubbs overruled Hannett and a legal battle took the question to the Virginia Supreme Court, which overruled Hannett and told Grubbs to appoint Shortt as the interim prosecutor.

Hannett, after failing to land jobs he sought in the area, converted his reserve status to active duty in the Army and, last we heard, is stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington State.

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