On Thursday, October 13, 2022, the Virginia State Bar’s Young Lawyers Conference hosted their annual Celebration of Women & Minorities in the Legal Profession Bench Bar Dinner at the University of Mary Washington’s Jepson Alumni Executive Center in Fredericksburg. This annual event honors newly appointed and elevated women and minority judges in Virginia.
This year’s keynote speaker was the Honorable John M. Tran of the Fairfax County Circuit Court. He shared the three traits that he has seen in successful judges: (1) they take care of the small things before the big things; (2) they embrace their failures; and (3) they spend more time looking outside themselves rather than inside. Judge Tran explained he wanted to become a judge because they do something valuable everyday and try to bring certainty to a person’s life and he noted the need for diversity on the bench. He shared anecdotes of how a lack of diversity on the bench during his early days as a judge led to misunderstandings and repercussions for individuals appearing in court and to later mistaking a colleague for a different woman of color due to the lack of diversity that had been so prevalent on the bench.
The honorees¹ this year truly exemplify the increasing diversity of experiences on the Virginia bench lauded by Judge Tran and show a commitment to the public. Judge Elizabeth Hanes, Judge Jamilah LeCruise, and Judge Rian Lewis served marginalized people as public defenders. Judge Kimberly White was also a public defender before representing the public as a deputy commonwealth attorney for the City of Lynchburg. Judge Tanya Bullock, Judge Patricia Giles, and Judge Tara Hatcher served as assistant commonwealth attorneys. Judge Leondras Webster, Judge Stephanie Vipperman, and Judge Kimberly White served as commonwealth attorneys. Judge Marissa Mitchell served the public as a Henrico government attorney. Judge Joseph Lindsey served the public as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates prior to taking the bench. Chief Justice Bernard Goodwyn brings 25 years on the bench to his new role as chief justice.
Judges Abigail Miller, Jennifer Shupert, Vanessa Jordan, Tara Hatcher, Katherine McCollam, and Nancie Williams served their community as family and/or juvenile attorneys, with Judges Jordan and Williams also representing people facing the criminal legal system. Judge Williams brings lived experience with the foster care system to the bench that will help the Warren JDR Court avoid the misunderstandings Judge Tran noted comes with a lack of diversity.
The Women and Minorities in the Profession Committee of the Young Lawyers Division warmly congratulates the honorees and looks forward to seeing how their diverse experiences will help them continue to serve Virginians and in turn help Virginians get used to seeing people reflecting the diversity of the commonwealth on the bench.
¹ The honorees were: Judge Patricia T. Giles (U.S. Dist. Ct. for the EDVA); Judge Elizabeth Hanes (U.S. Dist. Ct. for the ED VA); Chief Justice Bernard Goodwyn (Supreme Court of Virginia); Judge Kimberley S. White (Virginia Court of Appeals); Judge Abigail A. Miller (31st Judicial District/Prince William County GDC); Judge Jamilah D. LeCruise (4th Judicial District/Norfolk GDC); Judge Vanessa R. Jordan (19th Judicial District/Fairfax GDC); Judge Nancie Williams (26th Judicial District/Warren JDR); Judge Katherine C. McCollam (31st Judicial District/Prince William County JDR); Judge Marissa D. Mitchell (14th Judicial District/Henrico JDR); Judge Jennifer B. Shupert (2nd Judicial District/VA Beach JDR); Judge Tanya Bullock (2nd Judicial District/VA Beach CC); Judge Rian Elizabeth Lewis (7th Judicial District/Newport News GDC); Judge Joseph C. Lindsey (4th Judicial District/Norfolk GDC); Judge Stephanie B. Vipperman (21st Judicial District/Henry GDC); Judge Leondras J. Webster (4th Judicial District/Norfolk GDC); and Judge Tara D. Hatcher (12th Judicial District/Chesterfield JDR).
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