BLOGS: Western District of Virginia Law Blog

Jason grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, clerked for Judge Samuel G. Wilson in Roanoke, Virginia, and practices law in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014, 10:13 AM

WDVa Judge Certifies Class Action in Same Sex Marriage Case

Judge Michael Urbanski has certified as a class action a lawsuit challenging Virginia's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  This WDVa lawsuit, filed by the ACLU on behalf of two Shenandoah Valley couples, is proceeding parallel with a similar action in the EDVa (Norfolk).  Given the speed of the "rocket docket," the EDVa case is expected to be decided before the WDVa action, although both are destined for review by the Fourth Circuit.

Newly sworn-in Attorney General Mark Herring made news last week by deciding not to defend the ban because he wanted to put Virginia "on the right side of history."  Herring specifically referenced Virginia's sordid history opposing school desegregation, opposing interracial marriage, and insiting upon single-sex education at Virginia Military Institute.

As a native Virginian, I remember some of these battles and live with the history of others.  For example, my daughter goes to one of the public schools that Governor Lindsay Almond decided to close in 1958 instead of obeying federal Judge John Paul's order to desegregate Lane High School and Venable Elementary in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Massive resistance is a dark stain on Virginia's proud history.  Regardless of how the same-sex marriage cases are resolved, I am confident that we will not have the same state political resistance to federal court rulings.

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Monday, February 3, 2014, 12:31 PM

Judge Wilson to Retire August 1

Judge Samuel G. Wilson announced that he will retire August 1 after twenty four years as a United States District Judge for the Western District of Virginia.  I served as a law clerk for Judge Wilson in Roanoke, Virginia during my first year after law school, and I cannot say enough good things about him as a jurist and a person.  Judge Wilson's decision is a bit unusual considering that most federal judges go on senior status when they turn 65, instead of retiring outright.  More surprising, especially if you didn't know Judge Wilson, is that after retiring, he plans to spend a year in Taipei teaching American criminal justice at National Taiwan University.  I can't say that I saw that coming, but his decision to tackle a new adventure in a different part of the world is not surprising.  The Roanoke Times has a very nice article describing Judge Wilson's "rapid trajectory" as a prosecutor, lawyer, magistrate judge and then being named the youngest federal judge in Western Virginia.  Judge Wilson is quoted as saying: "Going somewhere different an taking on a challenge is kind of my way of easing out of it.... I suppose one of the reasons I'm leaving is I think it's important to put power down and see the world the way everyone else sees it."

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