Supporters rally behind Va. Beach judge left off reappointment list

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — With her future on the bench up in the air, more supporters are coming forward to set the record straight about a Virginia Beach judge.

Supporters say Judge Pamela Hutchens has been consistent and fair for 18 years, but after a performance review, the General Assembly does not plan to reappoint Hutchens when her term ends.

10 On Your Side has witnessed many cases brought before Hutchens, like the homicide trial of David Hemmingsen. He was charged in the shooting death of 22-year-old Sal Cardona in a Virginia Beach hotel room in 2007. Hutchens sentenced him to 33 years in prison.

WAVY News was also there when Judge Hutchens found former Washington Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith not guilty of DUI, but fined him for speeding in 2003.

After all that, many are wondering how Hutchens could be seen as too tough on crime. So, those supporters sent letters to lawmakers about the performance review.

“She punishes them according to the law,” said Kate Walsh. “I don’t understand how that’s being tough on a defendant.”

You may remember 10 On Your Side featured Kaye Walsh, a representative of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, this week in our special report on repeat DUI offenders. Since a drunk driver killed her daughter in 1997, she’s sat in Judge Hutchens’ courtroom plenty of times with MADD’s court monitoring program.

Document: Kay Walsh support letter

“We noticed that she has always been cool, calm, collected, and polite,” Walsh said. “If you’re going to be willing to cave to a high-price defense attorney just to get somebody off the hook, you don’t deserve to be on the bench. She is not a lenient judge; she is a fair judge and she follows the law.”

Walsh was shocked to hear of the General Assembly’s plans not to reappoint Hutchens. She wrote a letter in Judge Hutchens defense and sent it to several legislators. The Virginia Beach Fraternal Order of Police did the same, urging the General Assembly to reconsider; they said in their letter that “they all have a healthy respect for her, her courtroom and her decisions.”

Document: Fraternal Order of Police support letter

The Virginia Beach Fraternal Order of Police also noted: it is attorneys who were surveyed about Judge Hutchens seat. WAVY.com found the results of her survey online.

Only 35.9 percent of respondents ranked Hutchens’ overall performance as excellent. Other struggling areas included her competence as a judicial administrator and the latitude she allows lawyers in the presentation of their cases. A few other categories that could be major reasons why Judge Hutchens was not recommended for reappointment include her low scores for “Respect shown by the judge for all court participants, and fairness exhibited to all parties.”

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