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Supreme Court of Virginia Judicial Law Clerks

Fifty years ago this past July, the Supreme Court of Virginia hired its first class of judicial law clerks. That first class comprised three lawyers: John Pedigo, law clerk for Justice Harry L. Carrico; H. Thomas Fennell, who clerked for Justice Lawrence Warren I’Anson; and A. James Kauffman, clerk for Justice Harold Snead.
Members of the Virginia State Bar initiated efforts to bring professional law clerks to the court to help justices with their caseload, which increased steadily in the 1940s and 1950s as the state population grew. Richmond attorney Aubrey Bowles, who chaired a Judicial Council special committee on law clerks, told the Council in May 1961 that the need for law clerks had been a topic of discussion at VSB meetings for a few years. “This is a situation in which the administration of justice in Virginia is far behind.” By that year, appellate courts in 19 other states already were using judicial law clerks.
The Judicial Council committee recommended clerks be graduates of approved law schools and work as research assistants, not secretaries. “I don’t know whether the court wants to be tied down like that,” Chief Justice John W. Eggleston commented. Another member of the Judicial Council questioned whether the court had the authority to ask the legislature for money to hire law clerks. These concerns notwithstanding, the Judicial Council endorsed the committee’s recommendation in its report to the General Assembly in 1961.
In 1962, the legislature authorized $49,000 for the court to hire seven law clerks at a salary of not more than $7,000 beginning July 1. The rest is history.

SCV Judicial Law Clerks 50th Anniversary Reception
Former law clerks, justices, and staff gathered at the Library of Virginia November 1, 2012.

  • Video:
    Senior Justice Elizabeth B. Lacy spoke about the contributions of law clerks to the Supreme Court of Virginia.
  • Photo Gallery: