Criminal Law Section

David P. Baugh, chair

The Criminal Law Section had another successful year. The Criminal Law Section is one of the largest sections in the Virginia State Bar, with more than 2,400 members. Consisting of prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and professors, the section represents and brings together every aspect of this area of law in a spirit of camaraderie and friendship between advocates who are often in heated opposition.
The Thirty-ninth Annual Criminal Law Seminar, held in Charlottesville and Williamsburg, continues to be one of the highlights of the section activities for the year. While offering an excellent agenda of continuing legal education presented by some of the most respected practitioners and legal scholars in the state, it continues to be marked with a time for social interchange. The CLE affords the opportunity — which many look forward to — of meetings of newer practitioners; older, more-experienced advocates; and friends and opponents. The day of each CLE is marked by a pleasant sense of reunion — an aspect of the seminar that draws a large attendance.

This year was also memorable due to our two luncheon speakers: Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, who represents Virginia’s Third Congressional District, and Marvin Lamont Anderson, a wrongfully convicted defendant who was the ninety-ninth person vindicated and freed through the assistance of the Innocence Project.

Rep. Scott, always enlightening and entertaining, spoke in Williamsburg. In Charlottesville, a fly landing on cotton could have sounded like thunder as Marvin Lamont Anderson, in a calm and forgiving tone, told of his arrest at age eighteen for a brutal rape and assault in Hanover County. Despite his protests of innocence, his testimony, and his alibi, he was convicted and sentenced to 210 years.

Due to the persistence of his mother and his undying faith in the system he was exonerated in 2001 with the assistance of Peter Neufeld and Project Innocence after serving fifteen years in prison and four years on parole. DNA testing positively cleared him of any wrongdoing or involvement. For criminal lawyers, his plight and sincerity provided a perspective that could not be imagined.

At the time of his arrest at age eighteen his goal was to be a volunteer firefighter. Now, at forty-five, Mr. Anderson is the owner of a small trucking company and a volunteer firefighter.

The VSB Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach in June was notable by the section presentation – “From Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib: The Changing Landscape of Detention and Protection.” Presented by military and civilian lawyers involved in the detention center and the Office of Military Commissions, the panelists revealed the intricacies and difficulties associated with Guantanamo. All agreed it was provocative.

The most significant event that affected the Criminal Law Section, the bar, the profession, and the citizens of the commonwealth was the death at age seventy-one of Professor Robert E. Shepherd Jr. on December 11, 2008, after a battle with cancer. Professor Shepherd had been a moving force behind the success of the section. In addition to his teaching duties at the University of Richmond School of Law, he published the section newsletter, coordinated and arranged the annual seminar, and scheduled speakers. He was an active member of the section until the time of his death.

A graduate of Washington and Lee University for his undergraduate and law degrees, Professor Shepherd was a member of the UR law faculty from 1978 until his retirement with emeritus status in 2001.

During his legal career there was perhaps no greater influence on the legal rights of children in Virginia than Professor Shepherd. He was the founder and a board member of the National Center for Family Law at UR and was widely sought and recognized as an expert on family law and juvenile rights. He made presentations before legislative committees and legal bodies all over the United States. He headed the American Bar Association’s Juvenile Justice Committee and the Committee on the Needs of Children for the Virginia Bar Association.

Professor Shepherd died at a time when he clearly had identified personal and professional issues he wished to pursue. His loss became perilous to the mission of the Criminal Law Section. However, his friends and colleagues, with love and respect for him as a man and a member of the profession, rose to attempt to fill the great void left by his death. UR Professor Ronald J. Bacigal, already laboring under a heavy schedule of professional commitments, assumed responsibility for the section newsletter and the updated review of Virginia appellate legal opinions that impact impacting criminal law.

His dear friend for decades and fellow member of the section Board of Governors, Reno S. Harp III, assumed the spearheading duties, aiding and cajoling this section chair in the discharge of the day-to-day duties necessary to coordinate a massive statewide CLE — not once, but twice in 2009.

Always the core and base for the section, VSB staff Theresa B. “Terry” Patrick and Elizabeth L. “Bet” Keller, without a moment’s hesitation, filled in for Professor Shepherd’s absence in a beautiful display of affection for a great man and friend and out of their continued personal dedication to the section. In times of loss and devastation we can be reminded of the strength around us. Every man and woman who is a member of this section owes a great debt of gratitude to these two women. Professor Shepherd would have beamed at their efforts and success.

During the section’s annual business meeting in June 2009, the following officers were elected for the 2009-2010 bar year: Richard E. Trodden of Arlington, chair; Carolyn V. Grady of Richmond, vice chair; and Casey R. Stevens of Woodbridge, as secretary. James A. Bullard Jr. and Claire G. Cardwell, both of Richmond, were elected to four-year terms on the section Board of Governors.

My term ends, but I take from it a comfortable feeling of kinship and enjoyment between the members of the section. The interplay of the academics, judges, defense attorneys, and prosecutors in the section is evidence of the most civil and congenial relationships I have ever witnessed in the bar. It is comforting knowing that due to the dedication of section’s board of governors, including Reno and Ron, VSB staff members Terry and Bet, and the CLE presenters we all look forward to seeing every year, the efforts to improve the quality of legal representation in criminal law in the commonwealth will continue and flourish.

Updated: Sep 03, 2009