The V.I. Legislature confirmed 11 gubernatorial nominations to major V.I. posts, including four judgeships, during a busy session Monday.
Denise A. Hinds was confirmed to serve as a judge in the Family Division of the Superior Court on St. Croix. Hinds will replace Judge Patricia Steele for a six-year term on the bench.
Hinds obtained her law degree and bachelor’s of science degree from Duquesne University. Since 1995 she was assistant U.S. attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office on St. Croix. She was the prosecutor on Project Safe Childhood, which targeted criminals who sexually exploited children. Before becoming a federal prosecutor, Hinds worked for a year with the V.I. Department of Justice as an assistant attorney general.
Hinds’ nomination was opposed by the V.I. Bar Association on the grounds she only passed the V.I. bar exam in 2010, although she previously passed the bar exam in Pennsylvania and Georgia. The Bar Association argued that V.I. law requires five years of experience, with at least three of those in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Hinds’ 18 years of experience did not count because it occurred before she passed the V.I. Bar.
The V.I. Bar Association wrote that they believed the five years of experience required by the law needed to have occurred after the nominee joined the bar, so even though Hinds had been practicing law in the Virgin Islands for 18 years, she only received credit for two and thus was not qualified.
During her confirmation hearing before the Rules and Judiciary Committee, Hinds argued the requirements for five year’s experience and to be a member of the bar were meant to be considered separately so if a nominee had the required years of service and membership in the Bar, they were eligible, regardless of the span of membership in the V.I. Bar.
Former U.S. Attorney David Marshall Nissman strongly supported Hinds’ interpretation of the law at that hearing, and on Monday, senators approved her nomination without dissent.
Debra S. Watlington was confirmed to the Superior Court’s Family Division on St. Thomas to replace Judge Audrey L. Thomas.
Watlington, a graduate of Howard University School of Law, has worked since 2010 as the chief territorial public defender for the V.I. Territorial Public Defender’s Office. She joined the Public Defender’s Office in 2003, and served before that as chief of staff for the Island Housing Authority.
Douglas Brady has been selected to replace Judge Julio A. Brady as a Superior Court Judge on St. Croix.
Brady has worked for the firm of Jacobs & Brady P.C. since 1984. He has also been a U.S. District Court and V.I. Superior Court certified mediator since 1993 and an arbitrator on the commercial and employment panels and on the V.I. Public Employees Relations Board.
Brady graduated in 1976 from the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University of America. He was elected as a delegate for the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the Virgin Islands, sitting on the Judicial Branch Committee.
Magistrate Judge Kathleen Mackay was confirmed to the post of V.I. Superior Court judge to replace Judge Brenda Hollar for a six-year term.
Mackay has been a magistrate judge since July 2009 and, in that position, she presided over criminal bench trials, advice-of-rights hearings, landlord/tenant and small claims cases, traffic court and domestic violence cases. As a Superior Court judge, she would preside over jury trials and more serious cases as well.
Before joining the Superior Court, Mackay was a partner at the law firm of Hodge and Mackay. She was admitted to the Virgin Islands Bar Association in 1987.
The Legislature also confirmed Darice Plaskett as Commissioner of Health, a post she has held in an acting capacity since Commissioner Mercedes Dullum resigned in May.
Also confirmed Monday were:
– Reuben Molloy as director of the Bureau of Information Technology;
– Carol Callwood to the Government Employee Retirement System Board of Trustees;
– Dr. Donald Pomeranz to the V.I. Board of Dental Examiners;
– the re-nomination of M. Thomas Jackson to the V.I. Public Services Commission;
– and the re-nominations of existing UVI Board of Trustees members Jennifer Nugent Hill and Wesley Samuel Williams Jr. for new five-year terms.