WINCHESTER — In a passing of the gavel on Tuesday at the Joint Judicial Center, Judge Clifford L. “Clay” Athey Jr. was sworn in as a Virginia Court of Appeals judge and Brian M. Madden was sworn in as his replacement for the 26th Circuit Court.

“Brian’s going to do a fantastic job. He’s going to be a great circuit court judge,” Athey said after he and Madden were sworn in by Judge Alexander R. Iden. “I’m looking forward to a continuum here in Winchester/Frederick County with Brian at the helm.”

Athey, 59, of Front Royal, became an attorney in 1993 and was appointed a judge in 2012. Athey was a Front Royal Town Council member from 1996-2000 and mayor from 2000-02. He was a Republican member of the House of Delegates from 2002-12, where he represented Fauquier, Frederick and Warren counties in the 18th District.

Athey said Winchester was like a second home to him, but he’s looking forward to joining the 11-judge Court of Appeals, which hears cases in Alexandria, Chesapeake, Richmond and Salem. Among the court’s duties are hearing appeals in all criminal cases — except for death penalty cases — as well as from local and state government agencies. The court, which ranks second to the state Supreme Court, also hears appeals in domestic relations and workers compensation cases. Appeals Court judges serve eight-year terms.

Athey, who thanked Frederick Circuit Court Clerk Rebecca P. Hogan and Winchester Circuit Court Clerk Terry H. Whittle for making his job easier, replaces Teresa Chafin, who joined the state Supreme Court this month. Athey said he was humbled by the promotion and grateful to Del. Chris Collins, R-Frederick County, Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, Del. Michael J. Webert, R-Marshall, state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, and Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville, for getting the legislature to appoint a Northern Shenandoah Valley judge to the court.

Athey said he’s looking forward to the “intellectual challenge” of ruling on cases in the appeals court.

“It’s a different role than that of the circuit court. It gives one more time for reflection and more time for interpreting what the laws of the commonwealth mean and how they should be applied,” Athey said. “I loved my job as a circuit court judge, but I think I’m ready for the new challenge.”

Madden, 64, of Warren County, has been an attorney since 1991 and Warren County commonwealth’s attorney since 2004. In March, Madden recused himself from the multi-million corruption scandal involving former Warren County Economic Development Authority Jennifer Rae McDonald, who was charged in May with financial improprieties. Madden called for empaneling a special grand jury to investigate.

Madden didn’t comment after being sworn in.

His duties in the 26th will include hearing cases in Winchester Circuit Court as well as in Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren counties.

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

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