Alan Cooper//October 29, 2010
Alan Cooper//October 29, 2010//
Virginia Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr. will receive the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association’s Distinguished Service Award for 2010.
In announcing the award, VTLA President Matthew B. Murray said it is intended to honor those “whose commitment to the law and the right to trial by jury has advanced the cause of justice for the citizens of this Commonwealth. The Chief Justice’s accomplishments more than meet that test.”
Hassell will step down on Jan. 31 after two four-year terms as chief justice but will remain on the court.
Murray cited a long list of projects during Hassell’s tenure that he said reflect “the scope and diversity of the chief justice’s achievements.” They include:
•?Reform of the magistrate system to improve oversight and standards
•?Increased compensation for public defenders and court-appointed counsel for indigent criminal defendants
•?Establishment of a free annual training program for court-appointed counsel
•?Creation of a mental health commission that worked with the General Assembly on a comprehensive reform of mental health law, including improvements to the involuntary commitment process
•?Advocacy of increases in judicial compensation, so that, in Murray’s words, “the Commonwealth can continue to attract the best and retain the brightest” to be state judges
•?Efforts to raise the profile for pro bono services and increase their availability
•?Creation of a technology trust fund to improve the system’s case management systems and move toward electronic filing
Murray said Hassell has led “a court that had become more progressive and more protective of individual rights in both civil and criminal cases.”
Hassell will be presented the award April 2 at the VTLA’s annual convention banquet at The Homestead.
He was a partner at what is now McGuireWoods LLP when Gov. Gerald A. Baliles appointed him to the court in 1989. He is the senior member of the court in terms of service and was the first chief justice to be selected by the other members of the court.
The General Assembly changed the method of selecting the chief justice in 2002. Before then, the senior member of the court in terms of service was the chief justice.