News and Information
January 24, 2023

EDVA Judge Robert E. Payne Receives Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Award

The Honorable Robert E. Payne, senior United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA), has been awarded the prestigious Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Award for 2023 by the Virginia State Bar Section on Criminal Law.

The award, established in 1991, 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.” 

Past recipients include the Hon. Junius P. Fulton III of the Virginia Court of Appeals, Philip J. Hirschkop, who argued Loving v. Virginia before the Supreme Court of the United States, and Oliver W. Hill, the African American civil rights attorney who helped end the “separate but equal” doctrine and later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Last year’s recipient was the Hon. Donald W. Lemons, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, who served at every level of the Virginia judiciary and was an early advocate for drug courts designed to help non-violent offenders with addiction issues.

Judge Payne began his legal career in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps before joining McGuireWoods in Richmond, where he worked from 1977 to 1992. Payne was nominated to the bench by President George H.W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in May 1992, with his nomination reported by then-U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. 

Jacqueline M. Reiner, chair of the VSB Criminal Law Section, nominated Judge Payne for the Carrico Award, writing, “His hallmark trait is his mentorship of his colleagues on the bench, his clerks, and the attorneys who appear before him. He values common sense, compassion, and civility both in the courtroom as well as the community.”

Reiner also wrote that Judge Payne has been influential in clarifying the Eastern District’s criminal discovery disclosure obligations as set forth in Beckford and its progeny, and she noted that in her interactions with him, “His intellect and compassion is apparent in each and every proceeding.”

Richard Cullen, counselor to Governor Glenn Youngkin, has known Judge Payne for 45 years since their early days together at McGuireWoods. Cullen expressed his deep admiration for Judge Payne’s court, writing, “First, litigants know that he will be so well prepared that they better leave nothing to chance. Second, he teaches trial combatants to be civil with each other — conduct that is desperately needed in today’s world.”

Lastly, Cullen noted that Judge Payne “has a quick and subtle wit, he shows great respect and empathy for witnesses and jurists, and at the end of the day all parties feel that they were treated fairly.”

Like others who wrote in support of Judge Payne, the Hon. Thomas T. Cullen of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia called Judge Payne his “life-long mentor.” Judge Cullen also remarked on Judge Payne’s extensive preparation and open mind. Judge Cullen wrote, “Among active U.S. District Judges in our circuit, he is widely regarded as a scholar and his opinions are widely read (and adopted) by his peers. In the realm of criminal law, he has written on myriad issues, including the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, criminal discovery, and sentencing … his written work has long been a lodestar for judges and lawyers.”

Every judge of the Richmond Division of EDVA signed a letter supporting Judge Payne. The Hon. M. Hannah Lauck, the Hon. David J. Novak, the Hon. Roderick C. Young, the Hon. Henry E. Hudson, the Hon. John A. Gibney Jr., and the Hon. Mark R. Colombell said of Judge Payne: “He demands much of himself and much of those who appear before him.”

The judges also noted Payne’s preparedness and professionalism before concluding, “Even attorneys and parties who are displeased with the outcome of their cases cannot question Judge Payne’s integrity and ability or that they have been treated fairly and with courtesy.”

In a poignant recollection, Laura Colombell Marshall, partner at McGuireWoods, recalled, “Judge Payne was the first practicing lawyer I had ever met.” Marshall was introduced to Judge Payne and his wife Ann when she was a law student at the University of Richmond School of Law struggling to make ends meet. The Paynes hired her to be a house sitter, as they needed to be in Norfolk for a time while Judge Payne started his service on the federal bench, and the job helped her stay enrolled in law school and focus on her studies.

In her letter supporting Payne’s nomination, Marshall wrote that Judge Payne was her role model and mentor over the years. She concluded, “He has shaped and influenced multiple generations of lawyers in Virginia who are now judges, prosecutors, and defense counsel, all charged with seeking justice.”

Judge Payne took senior status in 2007, but continues to hear cases on the Court. He will receive the Carrico Award at the 53rd Annual Criminal Law Seminar on February 10 in Williamsburg.

Updated: Jan 30, 2023