‘You Set the Standard High’

‘You Set the Standard High’

Circuit Court judge Clark retires after 12 years on the bench.

The Hon. James C. Clark receives a standing ovation as he is introduced during his retirement ceremony Feb. 1 at the Franklin P. Backus Courthouse.

The Hon. James C. Clark receives a standing ovation as he is introduced during his retirement ceremony Feb. 1 at the Franklin P. Backus Courthouse.

It was standing room only in a courtroom at the Franklin P. Backus Courthouse as the legal community gathered Feb. 1 to honor Circuit Court judge James C. Clark upon his retirement following 12 years on the bench in Alexandria.

“How lucky can one man get?” said Clark, who was joined by family and friends in marking the occasion. “I am so grateful to have my high school friends here along with my family and so many former colleagues.”

A judge for the Alexandria Circuit Court of the 18th Circuit in Virginia, Clark was appointed to the court by the Virginia General Assembly and was sworn-in on Jan. 19, 2012. He officially retired effective Jan. 30.

“As a practicing attorney, a sitting judge or in everyday life, you don’t look at other people with fear, anger or quick judgment,” said retired Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel, one of several speakers at the event. “Whoever came before you was listened to with patience and respect. You never came across as being above anyone else in your courtroom.”

Clark was raised in Alexandria, graduating from T.C. Williams High School in 1968. He received his undergraduate degree from Bridgewater College and his J.D. from the University of Richmond School of Law.

Before he joined the court, Clark was a partner at the Alexandria firm of Land, Clark, Carroll, Mendelson and Blair, P.C. His former partner Drew Carroll acted as emcee of the event and the unveiling of Clark’s official portrait, which will hang in the courthouse.

In addition to Sengel, other speakers included Circuit Court Chief judge Lisa B. Kemler, retired Circuit Court judge Nolan Dawkins, retired City of Alexandria public defender Melinda Douglas and Clark’s son Travis, who is following in his father’s footsteps in the legal profession.

“I think so many are here tonight to celebrate no longer having to work with my dad,” Travis Clark laughed.

Former Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Greenback, an early colleague of Clark, also attended the ceremony.

“They didn’t tell half the stories they could have tonight,” Greenback said jokingly. “But seriously, Jimmy is one of the nicest guys you will ever get to meet.”

Several of Clark’s closest friends from high school were in attendance, including John O’Connor, Martin Smith and Jonathan Safren.  

“You are judged by the company you keep and my family and friends are truly priceless,” Clark said.

Adding levity to the event, Clark said that “there are things that happen in your life that change the way you think.”

He then relayed a story of spending a couple of hours on his first day of retirement at a playground with his young granddaughter Lucy.

“I came to realize that day that judges and diapers should both be changed regularly,” Clark said to laughter. “And for the same reason.”

But it was Sengel who captured the true sentiment of everyone in attendance, saying to Clark, “You set the standard high. All of us here would do well to follow your example.”