On September 29, 2022, the Roanoke Chapter hosted a Meet'n'Greet with local legislators at Billy's in downtown Roanoke. The Meet'n'Greet was developed by the Diversity Initiatives Committee in response to the claim that legislators do not "know women attorneys" when asked why so few are appointed to the bench. To help VWAA members prepare for the event, the Committee provided guidance on resumes and headshots for the legislators to keep. The evening was a success and the Committee intends to bring it to the rest of the VWAA's eight Chapters.
Below is the opening statement from Nancy Reynolds, Esq. Chair of the Diversity Initiatives Committee and a Board member of the National Conference of Women's Bar Associations.
"Honored guests, Senators Creigh Deeds, John Edwards, and David Suetterlein and Delegates Chris Head and Sam Rasoul, the Roanoke Chapter of the VWAA welcomes you. I am Nancy Reynolds, Chair of the Diversity Initiatives Committee of the Virginia Women Attorneys Association. The VWAA's mission is to encourage, advance and promote women in the practice of law. Essential to that mission is making connections with people and entities who may assist with our mission. Thus, we welcome our Honored Guests. Legislators have an important function in advancing women in the practice of law. Among those functions are legislation affecting women and appointments of judges. As legislators, you may consider women in your succession planning. This room is full of exceptional women for you to get to know.
On appointment of judges, I want to point out the May 14, 2021 letter, for which I claim responsibility. That letter states that 'a woman attorney has not been appointed to the circuit court bench since the Honorable Diane Strickland retired in 2002. The twenty-year mark has not escaped the attorneys practicing in this circuit. It has also not escaped the attorneys that in the entire history of the Twenty-third Circuit, she has been the only woman appointed to the circuit court bench. This pattern also exists in the Twenty-Third Circuit’s District Court, where Judge Jacqueline Talevi has been the only woman judge for twenty-six years.
The apparent trend for appointing women to the bench in the Twenty-Third Circuit is to place them on the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court bench. On this court, unlike their male counterparts, no female judge has been moved up to the circuit court bench. In essence, female judges are dead-ended on the J&DR Court bench. A conclusion can be drawn that women attorneys are considered appropriate for the J&DR bench because dealing with child and family matters is "women's work."' But we can do so much more.
The question that should be asked about this trend is 'why?'. I have spoken to many people around the state, and the reasons why women judges are not appointed boil down to two: legislators do not know women attorneys and it is a political process. We are here tonight so you can meet and get to know our exceptionally brilliant attorneys. On the issue of judicial appointment being a political process, I believe you do not know us in the political arena because women are rule-followers, even when it is to our detriment. We do not show up at political events or donate because we know that being a judge means that we do not engage in politics. We do not want the appearance of impropriety to surround a judicial appointment. We know the Canons of Judicial Conduct in Virginia state that judges have been paced in a position of public trust, that they must govern their lives and behavior to ensure the greatest public confidence in their independence, impartiality, integrity and competence. We know that judges are required to refrain from political activity and that public confidence in the independence and impartiality of judges is eroded if judges are perceived to be subject to political influence. Accordingly, we do not engage in those behaviors because we are rule-followers. So, you will not see us at political events and donating to your campaigns. You do not know how exceptional and brilliant we are. Please take this opportunity to get to know us."