From prosecuter to judge?

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

Will Floyd County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Shortt soon be Judge Shortt?

The buzz among legal eagles in the area and politicians say it is a done deal.  The question is now not so much if but when.  It could still some months off.

A full day of circuit court in Floyd County starts the first day after the three-day Labor Day holiday weekend, signaling a return to the hustle and bustle that is now more hectic than the old days.

But amid the talk about plea bargains and sentencing guidelines is the increasing buzz about Shortt leaving her office to become a judge and and discussion of an appointed replacement until a new one can be elected.

Shortt built a reputation as a hard-nosed Commonwealth’s Attorney who replaced a lackluster predecessor that voters ousted in a primary several years ago.  In 2007, she beat Eric Branscom, the man who beat Gordon Hannett, who went from being the prosecutor to becoming a defendant who stole hard drives from office computers and admitted his guilt in a deal that some felt let him off too easily.

Shortt wasn’t involved in the prosecution of Hannett.  That went to a special prosecutor, who cut a deal that left Hannett pick up trash on the Blue Ridge Parkway for punishment.

Shortt made history as the first woman to hold the job as Floyd County’s prosecutor and she beat a Republican to get there.  She ran as an independent against Republican Branscom.

Now Branscom is one of at least three names mentioned as a replacement for Shortt, along with Floyd Attorney Harrison Schroeder, who some say is a leading contender.

Whoever takes the job will face obvious comparisons to a Commonwealth’s Attorney who won every jury trail she and cut tough deals that sent prisoners to jail.  She also angered defense attorneys who grumbled that she cut hard deals on their clients — a move that was more popular with voters than with attorneys.

Shortt is saying nothing about her possible judgeship but others in the legal community say it is a done deal.

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