A benchwarmer no more

A benchwarmer no more

The General Assembly has elevated one judge and elected another to Alexandrias court system. Both jurists, beginning their new terms on the bench today, were elected unanimously.

Formerly the citys Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) judge, the Hon. Nolan Dawkins was elected late last Wednesday to the Alexandria Circuit Court after more than 14 years at his former post, one known for its dealings with complex familial issues.  

Judge Donald Haddock, Jr., an Old Town Attorney with his own practice, was also elected by the Assembly to the citys General District Court as a first-timer on the bench. Haddock will serve a 6-year term.

Dawkins 8-year term begins today, nearly 4 years after he withdrew his name from the running amidst a controversial election marred by partisan politics. The Alexandria-raised judge had significant support from citizens, local delegates and prominent city officials who cited his tenure and deep community roots in filling the 2004 vacant seat, but the then-Republican majority backed a Fairfax resident. The Hon. Lisa Kemler was eventually appointed as a compromise candidate, and Dawkins has not looked back.

Im pleased with the confirmation, Dawkins, 60, said Friday over the phone just before taking his seat for a hearing. And Im pleased with the job Im leaving behind and so many of the citizens Ive had the pleasure to serve.

All judges in the Commonwealth are subject to the General Assemblys election. Dawkins elevation represents a return to convention in Richmond where local delegates recommendations traditionally influence the Assemblys vote. 

At the end of the day our community got the judges that we selected, and really what this is, is a return to a long-held tradition of respecting the wishes of the local delegation, Del. David Englin (D-45) said. Were glad now that weve been able to get Judge Dawkins in there, because our community has the right to select our judges per years of General Assembly tradition. Hes an imminently qualified jurist.

Englin said there were no reservations whatsoever about the pool of judges nominated or the unanimous decisions made to elect or elevate them last week.
The Juvenile and Domestic Relations court is known universally as a tough post where family issues can clash with the state, and where troubled residents under 18-years-old stop and pause at a crossroads before continuing on a road to rehabilitation or elsewhere. Its a position that has primed him for the Circuit Court, which deals with severe and  sometimes grim crimes.

The Circuit Court deals with very serious crimes, said Del. Englin who was on the panel that interviewed Dawkins last year. He has a level of experience that I think will enable him to bring very sound, reasonable judgment to whatever comes before him in the circuit court.

Dawkins emphasized that the thorny decisions linked with the JDR are not easy, but they will not overshadow his difficult new bench seat that is distinctive in its own right.

There is probably not a tougher job in the judiciary than family court, Dawkins said. You deal with peoples mothering and in some regards have to predict the future. Dawkins added that he looks forward to the potential of his new seat on the bench, and is pleased with communitys recognition of his efforts over the years. Sometimes you get rewarded for that, he said.

Judge Donald Haddock, Sr. will appoint a new jurist to the vacancy left at the JDR by Judge Dawkins.

Judge Donald Haddock
Judge-elect Haddock, Jr. will take a seat at the General District Court today, wearing the citys newest black robe. Haddock runs a one-member general practice law firm in Old Town with an emphasis on real estate and civil litigation. Since entering private practice since 1996, he has successfully litigated civil and criminal cases at all levels of Virginia trial and appellate courts.

Haddock, 37, is known as an experienced title examiner and is often called upon by a title companies for assistance in real estate matters. He also serves as counsel to the Virginia Department of Transportation for eminent domain proceedings by appointment of the Attorney General, and as counsel to the City of Alexandria and the Town of Leesburg for real estate and litigation matters.

A native of Alexandria, he graduated from Episcopal High School. Haddock attended the University of Virginia where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance with a second major in Spanish. He stayed on at Virginia to earn his law degree.

Alexandria Times Staff Writer John Arundel contributed to this article.