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Judge’s notes find a home at law library

Once Robert “Pat” Doherty determined to study law, very little escaped his notice. Or his pen.

Not only did Doherty take comprehensive notes during law school and, later, during 18 years on the Virginia trial court bench, he also kept nearly every set of notes he authored.

Those notes, from law school and from his career as a judge in the Roanoke Valley, now fill 14 boxes at the University of Richmond law school library.

Doherty said he planned to burn most of the trial notes as he retired from full time judging last year at age 68, but was urged to preserve the notes as a legacy and a resource for lawyers and judges.

The Supreme Court of Virginia recommended they be housed at the UR law school.

Along with the boxes of bench notes – one jury trial produced 71 pages of careful notation on yellow legal pad paper – there are binders full of Doherty’s written opinions. He turned out hundreds during his years on the circuit bench.

The fast and thorough note taking habit was instilled by former UR law Dean William Muse, Doherty explained to one writer.

Muse required students to take notes in special hardbound books and inspected the students’ notes to make sure they were doing it right, the judge said.

As a judge, lawyers would come to his office to review his comprehensive notes as a reference for their arguments.

His notes may be preserved, but Doherty is still active as a retired judge, hearing cases as needed in the 23rd Circuit and beyond.

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