RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- -

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is defending the state's policy of automatically holding death-row inmates in solitary confinement, despite a ruling from a federal judge that the practice violates their constitutional rights.

The Attorney General's office filed papers Monday with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, seeking to overturn a judge's order that would fundamentally alter the nature of Virginia's death row.

The judge, Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, ruled last year that the practice of solitary confinement is so onerous that the Department of Corrections must justify its use for each inmate on death row. As it stands now, the state's eight death-row inmates are automatically placed in solitary.

Herring's office says in its appeal that the judiciary should not second-guess prison wardens on issues of safety.