News and Information
January 29, 2013

Pro Bono Celebration Features Downtown Richmond Sites

Court imageThis year’s Virginia State Bar Pro Bono Award Celebration, on April 15, will include a visit to the federal courthouse in downtown Richmond that is named for two giants of the law, Spottswood W. Robinson III and Robert R. Merhige Jr. Events also will include a tour of the nearby Library of Virginia.

This year’s program will start in the morning with guided tours of the Library of Virginia Special Collections and Exhibit on Law and Justice in Virginia and of the courthouse.

The afternoon CLE course at the library titled “Eradicating the Justice Gap: Rule 6.1 and Other Tools” will carry 2.5 credit hours for ethics, pending approval by the Virginia State Bar MCLE Board.

The Library of Virginia will be the site of the 7 p.m. ceremony to present the 2013 Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award. The recipient of the Oliver W. Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award also will be honored at the ceremony. VSB President W. David Harless will preside.

A reception for invitees will follow.

The program is open without charge to lawyers, judges, and affiliated professionals who are interested in access to justice issues, though space is limited for the tours. For registration and other details as they become available, go to

The courthouse opened in its current location in 2008 on Broad Street between 7th and 8th  streets. As Congressman Bobby Scott said when he sponsored legislation to name the building, “It is … fitting that we would name the new Federal Courthouse in our state's capital after two distinguished jurists, Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III and Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr., whose exemplary careers under the law displayed the best ideals and principles of our Constitution and legal traditions.”

Robinson’s career included a long list of firsts. In 1964 he became the first African American to be appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia; in 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him the first African American to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; on May 7, 1981, he became the first African American to serve as chief judge of the District of Columbia Circuit. Robinson served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and as dean of the Howard University Law School. He was one of the lead attorneys with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund from 1948 to 1960 and represented Virginia plaintiffs in the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education.

Merhige was appointed U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division, by President Johnson in 1967. He served there for thirty-one years and presided over some of the most important and complex litigation in U.S. history. He ordered the University of Virginia to admit women in 1970 and in 1972 he ordered the desegregation of dozens of Virginia school districts.

The Library of Virginia was created in 1823 and its first home was the top floor of the state capitol. In 1892, the General Assembly provided for a new State Library on Capitol Square in what is today known as the Oliver Hill Building. In 1940 it moved to what is today the Patrick Henry Executive Office Building. The library moved to its current location at 800 East Broad Street in 1997.


Updated: Feb 07, 2013