Just the Beginning Foundation, which works to inspire young people and promote diversity in the legal profession
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia
401 Courthouse Square
Alexandria, VA 22314
BA, The American University
JD, The American University
Who was your most important mentor and how did that mentor impact your career?
There are numerous individuals who empowered me to pursue the law and to seek a career in the judiciary. It would not be fair to name some and not others.
What do you consider your biggest personal accomplishment and why?
I believe to whom much is given, much is expected. My greatest accomplishment is to be afforded the opportunity and responsibility as a federal district judge. I strive to be the best judge I can possibly be – patient, well read, unbiased and decisive. Off the bench and in my service role in the community, I believe my work as a law teacher to judges, lawyers and law students helps empower individuals to excel in our profession. I serve as a mentor, coach, bridge builder and talent scout. I have assisted numerous professional associations, community groups, and individuals, particularly women and minorities, in entering and navigating the legal profession. I am most proud of the work I have done with various bar groups, schools, colleges, and law schools to see beyond limitation, to step out of their comfort zones, to open up to new ideas and individuals, to be creative, to think inclusively, to reach out to disadvantaged individuals, and to serve the community. I am very grateful that I had the chance to work with 125 volunteers from 26 different bar groups to help launch a highly successful 2008 Just the Beginning Foundation Conference around the theme of “Reaching Back, Lifting Up.” Our service project “Robes in the Schools” sent multi-ethnic and multi-racial teams of 40 lawyers and 60 judges into nine law schools, eight high schools, and two federal courthouses to share stories of overcoming obstacles with 2500 students in one day. See www.jtbf.org
What is the best bit of advice you ever received?
Frederick Douglass said there is no such thing as luck. Success is when preparation meets opportunity.
How do you achieve a balance between your professional life and your personal life?
My wife and I are very deliberate about our time together. My wife, who has an active law practice, and I lead highly scheduled lives. We intentionally schedule our quality time to be together and time to be with our family. We are very intentional about keeping in touch with our diverse collection of friends, sharing our lives, love and laughs with them.
If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what field would you have entered?
I would probably have become a television or radio journalist and novelist.
What is your favorite book or movie and why?
My Cousin Vinny is my favorite movie. I continue to laugh when I see it. It is a wonderful teaching tool for lawyers, especially when Vinny qualifies Ms. Mona Lisa Vito as “some kind of expert.”
What are two facts about you that most people, including your closest friends, may not know?
My first job was as a street sweeper in the public housing projects in Southeast Washington. My high school counselor had a limited view of who I was and what I could do. She told me I was “not college material.” She was right, of course. I was not college material. I was law school material!