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Contest lies ahead for presidency of VSB

Virginia lawyers will have a choice this fall on the leadership of the Virginia State Bar. A challenger has stepped forward to contest Raymond B. Benzinger’s bid for VSB president-elect.

Michael W. Robinson of Tysons Corner submitted a nominating petition this month to the VSB with 68 verified signatures of bar members, said VSB executive director Karen A. Gould. VSB bylaws require 50 signatures.

Robinson’s petition means the VSB will hold an election for president-elect in November. The deadline for any other candidates to submit petitions is Oct. 1.

The election could be the first using electronic ballots, but no decision has been made on whether to use that method or rely on traditional paper ballots, Gould said.

Robinson, 55, is a litigator with the Tysons Corner office of Venable LLP who focuses on business disputes and intellectual property cases. Licensed in 1986, Robinson said he has been with Venable for his entire career.

Robinson has been a member of the VSB Council for six years. He has chaired the bar’s special committee on bench-bar relations and is vice-chair of the bar’s standing committee on legal ethics.

Robinson also has been active in the Fairfax Bar Association, chairing the FBA’s circuit court committee for two years.

Robinson said he is not running to keep Benzinger, also of Fairfax County, from the VSB presidency. “I have no problem with Ray,” he said. Robinson said he received encouragement from other lawyers as he considered whether to run.

Robinson said he is motivated to help the VSB in its mission to regulate the bar and to improve access to quality legal services.
Informed of Robinson’s candidacy, Benzinger said, “I know him. He’s a good guy.”

Benzinger sought the president-elect position in 2012 but lost a close election to Kevin Martingayle of Virginia Beach, who will assume the presidency in June. It was the first contested election for the VSB leadership in 11 years.

The VSB changed bylaws in 2012 to allow online balloting for elections, but Gould said it was not clear whether there would be time to use the state-mandated procurement process to set up an online election system by November.

If not, the election will be held using mailed paper ballots.

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