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April 26, 2022

The Hon. Donald W. Lemons Receives 2022 Carrico Professionalism Award

The Honorable Donald W. Lemons, recently retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, has been named the recipient of the Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Award by the VSB Criminal Law Section

The Carrico Award recognizes an individual (judge, defense attorney, prosecutor, clerk, or other citizen) who has made a singular and unique contribution to the improvement of the criminal justice system in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

In his nomination, Judge Gordon S. Vincent of Accomack said of Chief Justice Lemons, “Chief Justice Lemons leads by inspiring all judges to remember our important role in assuring fairness to all. As the Chief Justice and the other members of the Court stated after the George Floyd incident, ‘As Judges, we must take all steps possible to ensure that in the courtrooms of the Commonwealth, all people are treated equally and fairly and with dignity under the law. It is a moral imperative that we do so.’”

The son of a Secret Service agent for President Harry S. Truman, Justice Lemons began his career as a probation officer where he interacted with lawyers and judges in the courtroom. These experiences later inspired him to attend law school. Justice Lemons went on to work in private practice handling civil, criminal, and domestic trials in all courts prior to joining the bench.

Justice Lemons has served as a judge or justice on every level of the Virginia judiciary beginning on the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond where he was appointed by Governor George Allen in 1995. There, he established one of the Commonwealth’s first drug courts designed to help those non-violent offenders with addiction issues. He was then elected by the General Assembly to the Virginia Court of Appeals in 1998 before being elected to the Supreme Court of Virginia in 2000.

A graduate of the University of Virginia for both undergraduate and law school, Justice Lemons has been a professor of law at Washington & Lee Law School, University of Richmond Law School, and the University of Virginia Law School. In 2016, he received the William R. Rakes Leadership in Education Award from the Virginia State Bar. In 2019, he was the recipient of the Lewis F. Powell Award for Professionalism and Ethics presented by the American Inns of Court.

A prolific writer and extensive speaker, Justice Lemons has served in numerous civic and legal leadership roles including honorary member of the Middle Temple Inn of Court in London and president of the American Inns of Court.

In his nomination, Judge Vincent recalls a speech Justice Lemons gave to members of the Virginia judiciary in 2018 where he outlined the important qualities for a good judge: “These qualities, he said, are ‘allegiance to the Oath of Office, deference to the legislative and executive branches, courage to follow the law even if a decision will be unpopular, and humility.’ Chief Justice Lemons epitomizes all of these qualities.”

Justice Lemons will receive the Carrico Award on June 15, 2022, at the VSB Council dinner in Virginia Beach.

Updated: Apr 26, 2022