Justice Donald W. Lemons Receives International Honor

Lexington, VA Friday, December 05, 2008

Justice Donald W. Lemons

This fall, Donald W. Lemons, Virginia Supreme Court Justice and Distinguished Professor of Judicial Studies at Washington and Lee University School of Law, was named an Honorary Master of the Bench by the Middle Temple Inn of Court in London, England. This rare honor for an American jurist is normally reserved for Chief Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Middle Temple is one of four Inns of Court originally responsible for training lawyers in England. Prior to the Revolutionary War, many Americans traveled to London to study law at the Middle Temple, returning to become colonial leaders. By the late 1800's, legal education both in England and the United States was taken over by law schools, but the Inns of Court in England remain a valuable mentoring and support mechanism for barristers, providing additional training in advocacy skills and ethics.

The American Inns of Court, established in 1985 by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger and others, serves a similar purpose in the U.S. today by bringing together legal practitioners of all levels to improve the skills, professionalism and ethics of the bar and bench.  Justice Lemons currently serves as Vice President of the American Inns of Court Foundation.

A distinguished jurist and legal educator, Justice Lemons has served as a judge or justice at every level of the judiciary in Virginia and has taught at the law schools at the University of Virginia and the University of Richmond in addition to W&L. Recognized as an authority on American legal history, Justice Lemons served on the state, national and international committees that organized the activities to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown's founding.

At W&L, Justice Lemons teaches a practicum course on appellate practice that combines legal theory about the nature of the judicial process with hands-on simulations of appellate practice. Students participating in the course explore the formulation of appellate strategies, effective brief-writing, and presentation of oral argument among other appellate skills. Additionally, students argue in a moot court setting cases that are currently on appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia, after which students observe the actual argument before the Court.

Justice Lemons graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1976 and served as an assistant dean and assistant professor of law at the School for several years. After a successful career in private practice, Lemons was appointed in 1995 to the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond by Gov. George Allen. In 1998 Lemons was elected by the Virginia General Assembly to the Court of Appeals of Virginia and then to the Supreme Court of Virginia in 2000.

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