The ‘Rocket Docket’ is down a judge. It’s time to fill the vacancy.

Story and photo by the Washington Post

By Carl Tobias

U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee (Courtesy the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Alexandria)

Last Saturday, Eastern District of Virginia Judge Gerald Bruce Lee retired after 19 years of dedicated service on the court, which enjoys the well-deserved reputation as the “Rocket Docket” for its speedy resolution of civil litigation. Because the district needs all the court’s judges to discharge its constitutional responsibility to deliver justice, Virginia’s two senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, must work cooperatively with President Trump and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the senior Republican in the Virginia congressional delegation, to expeditiously fill Lee’s vacancy.

This spring, Lee informed President Trump that he would retire on Sept. 30. The jurist has resolved thousands of cases, including numerous high-profile suits. For example, he sentenced Ahmed Omar Abu Ali to 30 years in prison for plotting to kill former president George W. Bush. He ruled that the Washington Redskins name disparages Native Americans. He also urged the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce mandatory-minimum sentences for crack cocaine offenses, even as he imposed stiff sentences on repeat offenders. Lee also instituted many efforts to enhance diversity in the Eastern District, which is critical to justice in the federal courts.


On Aug. 25, Warner and Kaine announced that they were accepting applications to fill the vacancy. The senators asked an independent lawyers committee to review the applications and interview candidates. Warner and Kaine said they would then evaluate panel suggestions and recommend highly qualified individuals to Trump. Goodlatte has posted no similar announcement, but the representative did supply recommendations for the Western District of Virginia U.S. Attorney vacancy, which suggests he may tender analogous proposals for Lee’s vacancy. The senators and Goodlatte must submit multiple recommendations with reasons for their selections to Trump, so he will have flexibility to choose the best person.

When the White House receives the suggestions, the Counsel’s Office should promptly analyze them, interview candidates and recommend names to the president. The White House should carefully consult the senators and Goodlatte and reach consensus soon on the strongest candidate. Once the Senate receives the nomination, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Judiciary Committee chairman, must promptly institute panel investigation, convene a hearing at which members rigorously question the nominee and conduct a discussion and vote. After panel approval, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should arrange a floor debate and vote.

Lee said when announcing his retirement, “For 25 years, I’ve sent people to jail on Fridays. It’s time to do something more.” It would be fitting to promptly fill his vacancy with a nominee who is as dedicated to the law and justice as the jurist.


Hon. Klinette Kindred Appointed Judge in Eastern District of VA


The investiture ceremony for the Hon. Klinette H. Kindred, was held on April 7, 2017. Judge Kindred was appointed as the second bankruptcy judge in the Alexandria Division of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of the Honorable Robert G. Mayer. Judge Mayer was appointed to the Court on October 15, 1999, and retired from the bench on January 4, 2017. Judge Kindred’s appointment was made by Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Judge Kindred is the first African American and first female to be appointed to the Bankruptcy bench in the Eastern District of Virginia. The ceremony was attended by a host of family, friends, judges, and members of the bar. Congratulatory remarks were made by ODBA President Jane M. Reynolds who applauded the appointment of Judge Kindred, not only because the appointment creates another milestone and brings diversity to the bench but because as one of the best consumer bankruptcy attorneys in Virginia and Chapter 7 panel trustee for six years in Alexandria, Judge Kindred was truly the perfect person to fill Judge Mayer’s seat. A reception at the Morrison House in Alexandria, Virginia immediately followed the ceremony.

 Read the press release at http://www.vaeb.uscourts.gov.



4th Circuit's new chief judge a fan of theater, history, justice

July 2016


The new chief judge of the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a part-time playwright and actor whose favorite line is as a character in the stage version of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Judge Roger L. Gregory also is a history buff who has been making some history of his own as the 10th chief judge in the court’s history and the first from Richmond; as the court’s first African-American judge; and as first African-American chief judge.

The courthouse at 1100 E. Main St. is the second-oldest continuously operating federal courthouse in the country and the same building where Jefferson Davis had his offices while he was president of the Confederate States of America.

Gregory’s new office on the building’s fourth floor features an expansive view of the state Capitol, the former capitol of the Confederacy.

“I’ve always loved history,” Gregory said in an interview Thursday. Growing up in Petersburg, he said he never thought he would become a lawyer, much less a judge.

“Like most kids, I loved baseball. ... I would have loved to have been a baseball player,” he said. Other youthful aspirations included firefighter, police officer and diplomat.

The 4th Circuit, one of 12 U.S. circuit courts of appeal, has 15 active judges and two senior judges. Except for the handful of cases accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court, it is the court of last resort in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina.

As the active judge with the most seniority and under age 65, Gregory officially became the new chief judge on Saturday, with the seven-year term of Chief Judge William B. Traxler Jr. of South Carolina expiring.

Gregory joined the court in 2000 as an appointee of President Bill Clinton while Congress was not in session. He was renominated in 2001 by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate.

After law school in Michigan and a brief stint as a lawyer there, Gregory went to work for the Richmond law firm of Hunton & Williams before he and future Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder opened Wilder & Gregory in 1982.

The law firm is known today as Harrell & Chambliss, still at Seventh and Main streets. Gregory said he stays in touch with Wilder, whom he described as “a wonderful, wonderful friend.”

Gregory said he likes his job as a judge so well that he hesitates to call anything about it “difficult.”

But, he said, “When you have to make judgments about very serious things, that’s always very tough. It takes a lot of time. It’s very serious.”

“As President Truman said, ‘The difficulty about making a decision, wasn’t the decision. The difficulty was not knowing all that time that you’re right,’” Gregory said. “We have some incredible cases.”

Some of the issues can have great impact on the country, and all of them are important to the parties involved, he said.

“I think that certainly is a challenge to get it right and be fair and to do justice,” Gregory said.

He said he will have to keep his “day job” as a judge in addition to taking over the administrative and other duties as the court’s chief, which include overseeing court operations; allocating work among the judges; and playing a key role in setting policy for the 4th Circuit as well as serving on the judicial conference that sets national court policy and is chaired by Chief Justice John G. Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gregory said he could have declined the role of chief but said he felt he needed to accept.

“As trying and humbling and daunting as the task may be, I think it’s important that I stand up and take my turn and do my very best, and I look forward to it,” he said.

He added, “It’s a lot of work, because I’m not just the chief judge of this court of appeals, but I’m the chief administrator of the whole 4th Circuit. That’s all the federal judges in the five states. That’s about 160 federal judges.

“Every day, I’m finding more and more duties that have already started and plus my day job continues — working on opinions and hearing cases just like everybody else,” he said. “God willing, I’d like to serve the seven years.”

Asked if he sees himself as a groundbreaker and role model, Gregory said, “My philosophy about being chief is, I’m a first among equals ... to lead with integrity, transparency and fairness.”

“I’ll let others put that mantle on me in terms of ‘role model.’ I would like to think that I would live my life as such that people might ... at least find inspiration,” he said.

“Particularly young people who can aspire to things. ... They might see themselves someplace else — whether it’s law, science or education or whatever it might be,” he said.

Gregory has three daughters and two granddaughters. His first wife, Carla L. Gregory, who died in 2009, revived an old interest in the theater when he turned 50. He said she prompted him to go to Barksdale Theatre to try out for a part. He did, and he won it.

“I’d always loved theater,” he said. He had dabbled a bit in the drama club while at Petersburg High School.

He has acted for the Virginia Repertory Theatre, twice, among other things, in productions of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a play based on Harper Lee’s novel about a white, small-town Southern lawyer, Atticus Finch, who defends a black man charged with raping a white woman.

“I was Rev. Sykes, who delivered my favorite line,” Gregory said. As Finch walks out of the court, Sykes says to the lawyer’s daughter, “‘Stand up, Scout, your father’s passing,’” Gregory said.

In the play, the Sykes character has more of a role than he did in the movie version of the novel, Gregory said.

Gregory said he also writes and directs a play each year as the artistic director of the drama ministry at Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Petersburg. “I love it. Theater is fun, a lot of fun,” he said. He also enjoys reading and sailing.

No ceremony was held to mark Gregory’s transition as chief judge.

“It happens not with a bang but a whimper,” he said. “It’s a great court, wonderful colleagues. With their help, I’ll endeavor to do my very best. It’s very humbling, and I thank God to have the opportunity to serve.”

Gregory said the courts “belong to the people,” and he wants to expand educational opportunities, especially for young people and on Constitution Day, Sept. 17.

“I really want to open it up,” he said. “The more we can educate, expose and encourage the principles of the Constitution and justice and liberty — we help all of ourselves.”



Roger Gregory to take over as chief judge of 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

July 2016

News story and photo by Richmond Times-Dispatch

Judge Roger L. Gregory, the former law partner of L. Douglas Wilder, will take over as chief judge of the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Saturday.

Gregory, 62, joined the court in 2000. He was the first African-American to serve on what was then widely viewed as the most conservative of the nation’s 12 federal circuit courts. He also will be the first African-American to serve as the court’s chief judge.

Based in Richmond, the 4th Circuit has 15 active and two senior judges and handles appeals from Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

The federal circuit courts of appeal generally have low public profiles but play powerful roles in the judicial system.

“It’s the court of last resort for the five states in the circuit in 99 percent of the cases,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law and an expert on the court.

Few cases from the federal circuit courts are accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal.

“So really it is your supreme court. ... It has the final say in all but 1 percent of the cases,” he said.

Gregory, a native of Philadelphia, grew up in Petersburg and graduated from Petersburg High School in 1971.

He graduated from Virginia State University in 1975 and from the University of Michigan Law School in 1978.

Gregory, who was not available for an interview last week, was a lawyer in Michigan from 1978 to 1980 and then with Hunton & Williams in Richmond until 1982, when he and Wilder created the firm of Wilder & Gregory.

He joined the appeals court in late 2000, when outgoing President Bill Clinton appointed him during a congressional recess to fill a newly created seat.

Gregory was nominated to the same position by President George W. Bush in 2001 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a 93-1 vote on July 20, 2001. He is the only person ever to be appointed to a federal appeals court by presidents of two different parties.

He replaces Chief Judge William B. Traxler Jr. of South Carolina, whose seven-year term as the chief expires Friday. There is no ceremony noting a new chief judge.

Tobias said the active judge with the most seniority — and who is under age 65 — becomes the new chief judge when the prior chief’s term expires.

Of the court’s current 17 judges, six were appointed by Republican presidents and 11 by Democratic ones — seven by President Barack Obama.

The judges of the appeals court usually hear cases in randomly assigned three-judge panels.

One of the most high-profile recent Virginia cases before the court was last year’s 3-0 affirmation of the 2014 corruption convictions of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. That decision last month was overturned by a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the 4th Circuit.

Gregory was not on the McDonnell panel but was one of the two judges voting in the majority on the 2014 panel that upheld a lower-court ruling that struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. He authored the unanimous panel’s opinion that upheld the tax subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

The court today is quite different from the one Gregory first joined. Obama’s appointees especially have “changed the tenor of the court,” Tobias said.

“It used to be considered the most conservative, politically, in the country. But I don’t think that’s true anymore,” he said.

Tobias said that as chief judge, Gregory will have some new, substantial responsibilities. Among them: serving as the public face of the court; overseeing court operations, including budget and employment matters; allocating work among the judges; heading the court’s judicial council, which sets court policy; representing the 4th Circuit on the judicial conference, the national policymaking arm of the federal judiciary; and fielding initial complaints about judges.

“It’s not a fun job, really. Everybody wants something from you, and you have to make sure the court works,” Tobias said. “I think the most difficult part is if there’s a judge who is not pulling his or her weight,” he added.

Gregory has three daughters and one granddaughter. Carla L. Gregory, his wife of nearly 29 years, died of cancer in 2009. Last November, he married Velda Edwards.

He has served as president of the Old Dominion Bar Association. Gregory also has been rector of the Virginia Commonwealth University board of visitors and served on the VSU board. He has taught, as an adjunct professor, constitutional law.

He currently serves on the board of trustees of the University of Richmond and the John Marshall Foundation.

His awards include the National Bar Association’s Gertrude E. Rush and Equal Justice Awards, the National Conference of Christians and Jews’ Humanitarian Award, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s Award of Excellence and the UR School of Law’s William Green Award for Professional Excellence.




Petula Metzler is Prince William’s newest General District Court judge

June 2016

News story and photo by What's Up Woodbridge 

Last week, Prince William County appointed their newest General District Court Judge – Petula Metzler.

Prince William County’s General District Court handles civil cases, criminal cases, and traffic cases, according to their website.

Metzler, who was working as an attorney at Compton & Duling, L.C., handling civil litigation, land use and zoning, and real estate cases, graduated from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, according to her LinkedIn profile.

“If there was ever a person destined to become a Judge, it is Petula Metzler. Her demeanor. Her character. Her intelligence. She is as close to the perfect candidate as I have seen. While we, as Compton & Duling, will miss her, we wish her the best as she embarks on the next chapter in her legal career,” said Compton & Duling Managing Partner Jason Hickman.




Congratulations to Judge Roberts!

June 2016

We would like to take a moment to honor ODBA Lifetime Member Judge Angela Roberts as she moves into the next phase of her career - retirement! At our 76th Annual Conference in Virginia Beach, we presented Judge Roberts with the ODBA Lifetime Achievement Award. To learn more about Judge Roberts' career, please review this brief summary. We congratulate Judge Roberts, and wish her all the best in retirement!




Judge G. B. Lee Recipient of the VSB Diversity Achievement Award

May 2016

The ODBA congratulates ODBA Judicial Member, Alexandria U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, for his receipt of the 2016 Virginia State Bar Diversity Conference’s Clarence M. Dunnaville, Jr. Achievement Award. 

According to the Virginia State Bar (VSB), Judge Lee is being honored for fostering, encouraging, and facilitating diversity and inclusion in the bar, the judiciary and the legal profession,.

The Dunnaville Award will be presented June 17, 2016, during the 2016 VSB Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach.




Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons Receives the Virginia State Bar Leadership in Education Award


March 2016

Lemons photoDonald W. Lemons, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, has been named the recipient of the William R. Rakes Leadership in Education Award from the Virginia State Bar Section on the Education of Lawyersin Virginia.

The award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and vision in developing and implementing innovative concepts to improve and enhance the state of legal education, and in advancing relationships and professionalism among members of the academy, the bench, and the bar within the legal profession in Virginia.

Throughout his career, Chief Justice Lemons has been involved in educational efforts to improve the quality of lawyers in the commonwealth. He began lecturing in numerous continuing legal education seminars sponsored by the bar early in his career. He was a member of the MCLE Board, and was on the faculty of the Judicial Conference of Virginia and the Judicial Conference for District Courts. For years he served on the faculty of the bar’s annual disciplinary conference and on the faculty for the bar’s Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Course. He was also a member of the board of governors for the Education Section of the bar from 1994-97. 

In his letter nominating Chief Justice Lemons for the award, Robert K. Walsh, dean emeritus on the Wake Forest University School of Law, wrote: “He has been passionate about educating law students and young lawyers. In addition to his leadership of the American Inns, Justice Lemons has taught and been very well received by students at several of the Virginia law schools. It is hard to imagine someone who has contributed more to legal education in your state and the nation.”

Chief Justice Lemons served as the A. L. Philpott Distinguished Adjunct Professor from 1998-2000 and the John Marshall Professor of Judicial Studies from 2005-2007 at the University of Richmond School of Law. Since 2007, Chief Justice Lemons has been the Distinguished Professor of Judicial Studies at Washington and Lee University School of Law, where he teaches his extremely popular appellate advocacy class.

Chief Justice Lemons has also been very engaged in the American Inns of Court. The mission of the American Inns of Court is to inspire the legal community to advance the rule of law by achieving the highest level of professionalism through example, education, and mentoring. In 2014 he finished two terms as president of the American Inns Of Court. He has also been the Master of the Bench in both the John Marshall Inn of Court and the Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Inn of Court, and he was the president of the John Marshall Inn of Court in 2002-2004. In 2008, he was awarded the rare honor of being named an Honorary Master of the Bench by the Middle Temple Inn of Court in London.

Wyatt B. Durrette Jr., of DurretteCrump PLC in Richmond, wrote: “There are few who can match Don’s contribution to the field of education in the legal profession and he is highly deserving of this recognition.”

Among Chief Justice Lemon’s many awards are the Virginia Trial Lawyers’ Distinguished Service Award (2012), and the William Green Award for Professional Excellence (2006), which is the highest honor awarded by the University of Richmond School of Law.




Celebratory Reception for S. Howard Woodson, III

January 2016

Please join us in extending congratulations to Howard for his selection as the Alexandria General District Court’s newest Substitute Judge.

You are invited to a celebratory RECEPTION on Sunday, January 17, 2016, from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. The reception will be held at 1104 W. Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA. Parking is available on Valley Drive or W. Timber Branch Parkway. Please RSVP by 1/11/2016 at 703-683-1449.

This reception is hosted by Friends of Howard.


Celebratory Reception for S. Howard Woodson, III




Congratulations to Judge Spencer

October 2015

Congratulations is extended to U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer who was named the “Leader of the Year” for 2015 in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly “Leaders in the Law” program Oct. 29, 2015.









ODBA MEMBERS C. Conyers and C. Hudson: "Making Things Happen: Getting Things Done"

March 2016

Judicial Member Cressondra Conyers and Member C. Hudson, as distinguished alumni of William & Mary Law School, were asked to be panelists for the Law School's Fourth Annual Leadership Conference on March 18, 2016. 

Judge Conyers served as a panelist for the panel entitled "Becoming (and Being) a Judge" and Chief Deputy Attorney General for Virginia Hudson served as a panelist for the panel entitled "Rising to the Top in Management."








Congratulations to Judge Jamison

November 2015

Congratulations is extended to General District Court for Richmond, VA, Judge Birdie H. Jamison on her retirement and the unveiling of her portrait on November 20, 2015.









Full statement from Judge Martin Clark in his decision to remove the portrait of General J.E.B. Stuart from the courthouse in Patrick County.

August 2015

On August 19, 2015, I personally removed General J. E. B. Stuart’s portrait from the Patrick County Circuit Court’s courtroom.

This will no doubt anger, perplex and disappoint many residents of our county, perhaps even the majority of people who live here. It will be an unpopular decision in many quarters, especially given that the courthouse is located in a town named in Stuart’s honor. Still, it is my goal—and my duty as a judge—to provide a trial setting that is perceived by all participants as fair, neutral and without so much as a hint of prejudice. Confederate symbols are, simply put, offensive to African Americans, and this reaction is based on fact and clear, straightforward history. Bigotry saturates the Confederacy’s founding principles, its racial aspirations and its public pronouncements. For instance, the Declarations of Causes—the legal and philosophical grounds recited by the Southern states for leaving the Union—could just as easily be called The South’s Demands to Mistreat Black People. South Carolina, according to its declaration, felt wronged because of “an increasing hostility on the part of non-slaveholding states to the institution of slavery,” and, ironically, complained that the federal government had “denounced as sinful the institution of slavery.” Mississippi’s main reason for leaving the Union is unmistakably framed and repeated early and often in its causes document: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest in the world.” The Mississippi document goes on to condemn the notion of “negro equality, socially and politically,” and finds fault with Mississippi residents being denied “the right of property in slaves.” Georgia listed its grievances “with reference to the subject of African slavery,” and insisted on its right to hold slaves. The single specific injury mentioned in Virginia’s actual Secession Ordinance is “the oppression of the Southern slaveholding states.” And, finally, lest there be any doubt exactly whyblack Americans might legitimately find the symbols of the Confederacy unsettling, here are the words of the Confederacy’s Vice President, Alexander Stephens, on the subject of slavery and race: “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

I have heard from several of my local friends that people—like myself—who are critical of Confederate symbols need “to read the real history.” I have. I’ve cited it above in black and white from the actual Confederate documents. Virginia Tech historian and Civil War authority James “Bud” Robertson taught his students that “slavery was unquestionably the primary cause of the war.” I’ve read how Confederate flags waived in the galleries after the Virginia legislature passed its racist, embarrassing and unconstitutional Massive Resistance scheme. When George Wallace proclaimed “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” he invoked Jefferson Davis, the “Cradle of the Confederacy” and the “great Anglo-Saxon Southland.” It seems pretty apparent how Governor Wallace interpreted the Rebel past. There’s only one “real” history. No group or person has somehow perverted, hijacked or misstated what Confederate emblems represent. From the creation of the Confederacy straight through until today, from Alexander Stephens to Harry Byrd to George Wallace to David Duke, these symbols have always been imbued with the conviction of black inferiority.

Moreover, I’ve never gotten more than mumbles and abstractions when I’ve asked apologists precisely what history I’m overlooking. While the South had other differences with the Union, slavery was at the core of the Civil War, and the South wanted to maintain the subjugation of blacks. It’s a basic narrative if you choose to examine it with an open mind. There’s some focus on economics and much carping about deviation from earlier, underlying Constitutional compacts, but these “states’ rights” assertions by the South are mostly used as predicates to justify and maintain slavery and demand the return of Southerners’ “property” when slaves are discovered in the North. Put differently, the Civil War was about finances and states’ rights in the sense that the departing nation insisted it be allowed to hold and recapture slaves to support its economy. Again, a section from Mississippi’s causes declaration vividly illustrates precisely what economic concerns and what states’ rights were on the South’s agenda: “[Slave] labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

Additionally, in the context of the Confederacy, I’m weary of the argument that we shouldn’t remove certain intrusive Civil War symbols because “everybody’s too sensitive and/or everybody is offended by something.” Black men and women have a bona fide, objective, fact-based, historically grounded reason to find Confederate glorification offensive, and almost all of them do in fact take offense.  Me, I’d for sure take issue with the symbols of a nation that believed “slavery subordination to the superior race” was my “natural and normal condition.” African Americans’ distaste for Confederate symbols can hardly be described as an overreaction, contrived or in any way hypersensitive.

The courtroom should be a place every litigant and spectator finds fair and utterly neutral. In my estimation, the portrait of a uniformed Confederate general—and a slave owner himself—does not comport with that essential standard. By way of example, I’ll ask my fellow white Patrick Countians how they’d respond to this scenario: Imagine walking into a courtroom, your liberty at stake, and you discover a black judge, a black bailiff, a black commonwealth’s attorney, a black clerk and a black defense lawyer. You are the only white person there. You peer at the wall, and you see a picture of Malcom X—a Nation of Islam member who preached black superiority and demeaned the white race. What assumptions would you make about that courtroom, the judicial system and the black judge who allowed that portrait to remain on the wall? Would you feel certain that you’d receive fair, unbiased treatment with Malcolm X celebrated and honored in the place where your rights are being adjudicated? I would not, and that’s why General Stuart’s portrait has been removed. Given how fierce and divisive the debate over the Confederate flag has become, it should be obvious that symbols convey powerful meanings to many reasonable people, and we do not need this complication in a courtroom.

This decision, however, does not address another controversial aspect of our courthouse’s history and one of the town’s longstanding practices. For years, various groups have asked permission to appear in the court square, outside, and celebrate certain Confederate events, most notably General Stuart’s birthday. Several years ago, I told the organizers that they could continue to bring and display any of the various Confederate flags, but they were not to fly them on the courthouse pole or leave them behind, nor were they allowed to leave behind any wreaths, objects or decorations containing Confederate themes. This rule was in place well before the horrible church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, and has nothing whatsoever to do with that awful, heartbreaking event. Needless to say, this restriction was not well received by some members of our community, given that “we’ve always done it that way before.” Notwithstanding how it had always been done before, there are only two flags that should ever be atop what is effectively this county’s flagpole—the American flag and our state flag.

As an aside, it is important to note that both Curtis Spence and Chris Washburn, the main organizers of these events, have always been polite, professional and very courteous—the hue and cry and unhappiness about the ban on flag flying came from other members of our community and never from the organizers. As a further aside, both these men, in my dealings with them, have proven to be solid citizens and completely free of any racial biases or hostilities; their sincere and heartfelt belief is that a Confederate flag is not a racial negative and should not be seen as a racial negative. In this county, a number of other residents—including a few close friends—share that same opinion. I very much disagree with them for the reasons I’ve painstakingly detailed earlier. Their pure hearts and decent intentions can’t trump the Confederacy’s widespread, systemic mistreatment of blacks that is bound up in the flag. This flag was birthed in a nation that insisted it had the right to buy and sell black men and women as if they were doodads and chattel, and earnest, well-meant talk of valor, fate and a Lost Cause will never scrub away those hideous origins.

Despite my disdain for all versions of the Confederacy’s flag, despite the patently offensive character of the these flags, and despite my belief that no one will take us seriously if we continue to insist these emblems represent who we are in 2015, this particular courthouse space—the courtyard—is still the functional equivalent of the town square, a marketplace for speech, ideas and discourse. While we as a legal system and a commonwealth cannot and should not sponsor or endorse what private individuals wish to say, we should also zealously defend their Constitutional right to speak and present their positions. A public space, outside the courtroom, on a weekend or when court is not in session, is a far different creature than the formal place of business for the judiciary. We have had protesters and preachers and charities and politicians, and, yes, people dressed as Confederate soldiers waving a Civil War battle flag all utilize this area—they will all be allowed to return, with the understanding that we as a court system support only their right to speak, not their causes, beliefs, ideologies or missions. While this decision will be thoroughly objectionable to the anti-flag segment of our county, I would suggest to citizens who find any display or perspective troubling that they civilly and constructively stage their own events to present their viewpoints. Minds change and opinions are shaped through education, empathy and compelling argument, not by a court suppressing someone’s right to speech in the most public of forums.

Of course, I realize that my decisions and the actual rulings herein—the permanent removal of the Stuart portrait from the courthouse, the prohibition against running any iteration of a Confederate flag up the courthouse pole, the ban on Confederate articles and memorials after a group has left the square, and the continued opening of the outdoor public square to all comers including those who want to feature General Beauregard’s battle flag—will satisfy virtually no one but will tick off all grades of people.

Finally, I think it’s important to mention my Southern roots and my pride in this region. I’m proud to live in Patrick County, proud to live in the South. I celebrate William Faulkner, Larry Brown and Eudora Welty. I listen to The Allman Brothers and miss B.B. King. I made it a point to meet Dale Earnhardt and get his autograph, I grew up next door to Leonard Wood, and my mother was a Young from Ararat—raised dirt-poor a stone’s throw away from Jeb’s birthplace—who became a magnificent teacher. I caught my first fish in Kibler Valley almost fifty years ago. I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with Jerry Baliles, Turner Foddrell, Sammy Shelor, John D. Hooker, Ann Belcher and Annie Hylton, Rev. R. J. Mann, Buddy Dollarhite and John Grisham. I’ve witnessed bake sales and fundraisers and pinto-bean suppers bring in five-figure help for Patrick County friends who happened to catch a bad break. My dad and uncle told me stories about leaving these mountains and volunteering to serve in World War II. That’s the South I want to showcase. I’m proud of our music, our food, our literature, our accomplishments in every possible field, our manners and traditions, our sense of connection with our neighbors, our quiet sacrifices, our grit and courage throughout generations, our savvy and intelligence, and the rhythms, feel and strength of this slice of the world. That’s my Southern heritage, and it’s far, far distant from the battlefields of the 1860s.

75th Anniversary Judicial Luncheon Processional

June 2015

To see practically every one of the ODBA Judicial Members proceed into the luncheon in their robes was a tremendous site.

Special appreciation is expressed to The Hon. Marilynn Goss for coordinating the luncheon and The Hon. Angela Roberts for serving as the keynote speaker.

If you missed the opportunity to be there or if you were there and just want to see the processional just one more time, click below:

Regent University BLSA Black History Banquet Honors Two Judicial Members and ODBA


February 20, 2015

ODBA was surprised to receive a gold sponsorship certificate at BLSA’s Making Black History Banquet on February 20, 2015, at Regent University School of Law. Several members, including Clarence Brooks, Darius Davenport, W. T. Mason, Judge Raymond Jackson, W. Marcus Scriven, Judge Alfred Bates, and others with dual membership in the Southampton Roads Bar Association, were present filling three tables. Angelina Moyo, Vice Chair of the Chapter, gave thanks for all of the assistance ODBA has given to the BLSA Chapter this year and the student/attorney/judge contacts that ODBA has facilitated.

Judicial members and alumnae of the law school, Teresa Hammons and Tanya Bullock, were recognized along with the first black graduate of the law school, Dr. Joyce Marie Plummer. ODBA congratulates our Judicial Members Hammons and Bullock for their many accomplishments.

Investiture of ODBA Member Roderick C. Young, United States Magistrate Judge

October 28, 2014

ODBA is pleased and proud to announce that the investiture ceremony for Roderick C. Young as U. S. Magistrate Judge for the Richmond Division of the Eastern District of Virginia will take place on January 16, 2015 at 3:00 pm at the Federal Court House in Richmond.  United States Magistrate Judge Roderick C. Young received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from George Mason University and his Juris Doctor degree from the West Virginia University College of Law.

He worked as an Assistant Public Defender in Portsmouth, Virginia and as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Richmond, Virginia. He also worked as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia in that office’s Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit. From 2002 until October 2014, Judge Young worked as an Assistant United States Attorney in Richmond, Virginia. During that time, he prosecuted a number of cases involving international narcotics organizations, racketeering crime, bank robbery, white collar crime, and other violations of federal law. From February 2012 until October 2014, Judge Young served as the Deputy Criminal Supervisor in the Richmond United States Attorney’s Office. He was sworn in as a United States Magistrate on October 28, 2014.

Please attend the ceremony.  President of the ODBA will give words and a special gift to our ODBA member, Judge Young.


Four Virginia judges/ODBA members elected to CLEO Hall of Fame

November 12, 2014

For more than 45 years, the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) has worked to make the law a more diverse profession by expanding opportunities for underrepresented persons to pursue a legal career.

Some of those CLEO alumni have made it to the highest levels of the profession, and on Nov. 12, CLEO honored a number of them for their contributions to their communities and the profession.

Seven members of the judiciary from the Mid-Atlantic region were be honored as the inaugural class of the “Judges of CLEO” Hall of Fame.

PICTURED (L-R) Hon. Gerald Bruce Lee, Alexandria U.S. District Court; Hon. Eileen A. Olds, Chesapeake Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court; Hon. Raymond A. Jackson, Norfolk U.S. District Court
Washington undefined (Not pictured – Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cleo E. Powell )

The members of the 2014 “Judges of CLEO” Hall of Fame class are:
  • U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson, Norfolk
  • U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, Alexandria
  • U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenia Seoane Lopez, Washington, DC
  • Juvenile & Domestic Relations Judge Eileen A. Olds, Chesapeake
  • Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cleo E. Powell, Richmond
  • U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts, Washington, DC
  • U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, Washington, DC
Six of the seven are CLEO alumni; Lee was inducted as an honorary CLEO alumnus.
Since CLEO’s inception in 1968, more than 10,000 students have participated in its pre-law and law school academic support programs, successfully matriculated through law school, passed the bar exam and joined the legal profession. The influence of CLEO alumni in the legal profession is an indication of the important role CLEO has played in helping to provide a voice to underrepresented groups.

Article By: Deborah Elkins November 19, 2014 


ODBA Ranks Judicial Candidates for the VA Supreme Court and Virginia Court of Appeals

October 21, 2014

The Judicial Selection Committee of Old Dominion Bar Association (ODBA) interviewed and rated candidates for vacancies on the Virginia Supreme Court and the Virginia Court of Appeals on October 21, 2014. ODBA rated the candidates are as follows:

VIRGINIA SUPREME COURT
W. Coleman Allen, Jr. Qualified
Hon. Rossie D. Alston Highly Qualified and Recommended
Hon. Randolph A. Beales Highly Qualified
L. Steven Emmert, Esq. Highly Qualified
Hon. Mary Jane Hall Qualified
Hon. D. Arthur Kelsey Highly Qualified and Recommended
Christy McCormick Qualified
Hon. Stephen R. McCullough Highly Qualified

VIRGINIA COURT OF APPEALS
Hon. Chadwick S. Dotson Qualified
Jason Eige, Esq. Qualified
L. Steven Emmert, Esq. Highly Qualified
Richard E. Gardiner Highly Qualified
Hon. Mary Jane Hall Highly Qualified
Hon. Gary A. Hicks Highly Qualified and Recommended
Hon. Christopher W. Hutton Highly Qualified
Hon. Colleen Killilea Qualified
Maureen Madsen, Esq. Qualified
Christy McCormick Qualified
Hon. Stacey Moreau: Qualified
Patricia P. Nagel, Esq. Highly Qualified and Recommended
Hon. Lorraine Norlund Qualified
Hon. Mary Grace O’Brien Highly Qualified
Wesley G. Russell, Esq. Qualified
Elwood Sanders, Esq. Qualified
Hon. Josiah T. Showalter Highly Qualified
Hon. Robert J. Smith Highly Qualified
Virginia Theisen, Esq. Qualified
Note: Some names appear on both lists because they requested to be rated for a seat on both the Virginia Supreme Court and the Virginia Court of Appeals. One candidate, Tom Aldous, did not request to be interviewed by ODBA.

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