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U.S. Senate fills final vacancy in Virginia federal courts

Lynchburg courthouse for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
Wikimedia Commons
Judge Robert Ballou will preside over federal cases in a region that includes Abingdon, Big Stone Gap, Charlottesville, Danville, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg and Roanoke.

In a 59–37 bipartisan vote, lawmakers confirmed Judge Robert Ballou to U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

There are no more vacancies on Virginia's federal bench.

The U.S. Senate this week confirmed the last of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominations, Roanoke Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou, to the U.S. District Court for Western Virginia.

Ballou succeeds Judge James Jones, who’s assumed a lighter caseload since taking senior status in 2021.

Judge Robert Ballou
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia
Judge Robert Ballou

In a 59–37 bipartisan vote, 11 Republicans joined the Democrat majority to seal Ballou’s confirmation. Carl Tobias, a professor at University of Richmond Law, called him a moderate judge with a “measured judicial temperament.”

“He’s not considered to be conservative or liberal, or even very political,” Tobias said. “Though he does a lot of community work, which is very valuable.”

Tobias noted the Western District of Virginia handles an evenly split criminal and civil docket. While the Eastern District handles many business and military related cases, the Western district hears many agriculture disputes and drug crimes.

In 2006, the court heard one of the first major opioid cases in the U.S., in which executives for OxyContin maker Purdue were ordered to pay $60 million in penalties for misleading doctors and patients about the drug.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine recommended Ballou to Biden last July.

“He’s had a very distinguished career as a magistrate judge,” Kaine said during a press call on Tuesday. “He gets great reviews from the U.S. attorneys that have practiced before him from, the private bar, defense and plaintiff, criminal defense and prosecutors.”

Ballou graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law and later clerked for a federal judge in Louisiana. He’s served in Roanoke for the last 12 years.

His confirmation comes a week after the U.S. Senate confirmed Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamar K. Walker to the Eastern District court.

Correction, March 13: A previous version of this story misattributed a quote from Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.