Supreme Court of Virginia Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons will step down from his role as chief justice at the end of the year, according to a press release from the court.
Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn has been elected by the justices to become the next chief justice. Goodwyn, who has sat on the court since 2007, will assume office on Jan. 1, 2022.
Lemons has served as chief justice since 2014 and has served on the Supreme Court of Virginia since being elected by the General Assembly in 2000. His current term on the court is set to expire in 2024.
The court’s press release did not state why Lemons is stepping down but, at age 72, he is one year away from the mandatory retirement age for judges and justices in Virginia.
Prior to joining the high court, Lemons served on every level of Virginia’s court system. He was a substitute judge in General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court before being elected by the General Assembly to the Richmond Circuit Court in 1995.
In 1998, Lemons was elevated to the Court of Appeals of Virginia, where he served for two years before joining the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Lemons is the former president of the American Inns of Court, which awarded him the Lewis F. Powell Jr. Award for Professionalism and Ethics in 2019. He is also an Honorary Bencher of Middle Temple in London.
Lemons had decades of legal experience before becoming a judge. He was a probation officer for the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court from 1971 to 1973. Later, he served two years as an assistant dean and assistant professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, where he earned his law degree. Afterwards, Lemons spent 17 years working in private practice in Richmond.