nvdaily.com link to home page

Traffic | Weather | Mobile Edition
Archives | Subscribe | Guide to the Daily

Local News arrow City of Winchester arrow Courts & Legal News

| 0 | 0 Comments

Keenan: Freedom crucial to judiciary

View larger image

Barbara M. Keenan

* Breaking News

If local news is breaking and you know about it:
* Call Us: 800-296-5137
* E-mail Us
* Upload Your Photos

Judges cannot be beholden, she tells university audience

By J.R. Williams -- jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Judge Barbara M. Keenan, of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is used to breaking barriers.

She was the first female general district court judge in Virginia, the first woman to be elected to the Court of Appeals of Virginia and only the second to serve on the state Supreme Court.

All jobs she called a "fantastic, continuing learning experience."

"The cases are limitless," she said.

Keenan spoke at Shenandoah University on Wednesday as part of the annual J. Sloan Kuykendall Distinguished Legal Lecture series, which honors the late city attorney of that name and is sponsored by the Center for Public Service and Scholarship.

Citing her "long and distinguished record of service on the bench," President Obama appointed Keenan to the Fourth Circuit in September 2009.

In introductory remarks, local Circuit Court Judge John E. Wetsel Jr. -- who served with Keenan on the Commission on Virginia Courts in the 21st Century and the Judicial Performance Evaluation Task Force -- called her a "veritable saint of the law."

"It's fortunate for the fourth circuit that Judge Keenan has seen in many instances, firsthand, the types of cases of which she's now asked to rule and review as an appellate judge," he said.

Keenan said her court -- which covers Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina -- is gearing up for some high-profile cases, not the least of which are challenges to the new federal health-care legislation.

But the message she had for local dignitaries and students Wednesday night was one of judicial independence. Virginia is one of the few states whose judges are appointed by the legislature. Elsewhere, she said, corruption can creep in with corporate influence during elections.

"This is becoming a really big issue in this country today," she said. "With the judiciary, the judges need to be able to make decisions based on the law and not be subject [to] whether people like one thing that you did. It's a really serious problem."

As an example, she cited the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court case, Caperton vs. Massey Coal Co., in which a state Supreme Court candidate benefited from $3 million a company executive spent for ads to attack his opponent. After the candidate was elected, he subsequently cast a swing vote in favor of Massey.

"It is so hard, in terms of public perception, for the public to believe that judges who have received $50,000 from a corporation or from a law firm are not going to at least be a little bit affected ... [when] their continuation in office, their financial support, has been from people who are asking to decide their case in their favor."

Keenan said campaigns that force judges to reveal their personal feelings on sensitive issues undermine the position's responsibility.

"Judges are being asked to pre-decide cases ... or at least state opinions, and that's really the antithesis of what judging is about," she said.

Shenandoah freshmen Keaton Whitehurst and Heather Taylor, both 19, are pursuing career fields outside of law: Whitehurst is studying vocal performance and Taylor is exploring respiratory care. But the pair called the lecture informative and said they enjoyed Keenan's later uplifting message to students to pursue their goals.

"I thought it was really interesting," Whitehurst said. "I liked how she said to reach for the stars, basically, and to not worry about just being the norm. She's had a great career, and I wish her the best."View image

Leave a comment

What do you think?

(You may use HTML tags for style)


Comments that are posted on nvdaily.com represent the opinion of the commenter and not the Northern Virginia Daily/nvdaily.com.

Comments that contain Web addresses, e-mail addresses, personal attacks, name-calling or personal information considered by the editor to be inappropriate for posting here will not be posted.

Commenters agree to abide by our COMMENTS POLICY when posting. Questions? E-mail us at info@nvdaily.com.


Local News Sections

2010: Year in Review Agriculture Apple Blossom Festival Basye Berryville Big Picture Bob Wooten Books Boyce Breaking News Business Business Spotlight City of Winchester Civil War Clarke County Cockfighting Case College Corrections Courthouse Notes Courts & Legal News Crime & Public Safety Economy and Jobs Edinburg Edward N. Bell Entertainment Entertainment Spotlight Environment Fall 2010 Farms Feature Photos Featured Festivals Financial Fire & Rescue Fort Valley Frederick County Front Royal General Assembly Hard Times Health History Holidays Homes In The Spotlight Jody Lynn Bradley Justin Shane Slater Ledger Legislation Library Livestock Local Government Local Markets Local Sports Matt Pallister Maurertown Media Middletown Military & Veterans Moms Mt. Jackson New Market New Market Fire Department Page County Pets & Animals Politics Power Line Quicksburg Religion School News Shenandoah County Shenandoah National Park Shenandoah University Solar Farm Staff Picks Star Tannery Stephens City Strasburg Swine Flu Technology The Year in Review Toms Brook Tourism Traffic & Transportation Upcoming Events Video In The Spotlight volunteer agencies Volunteer Rescue Squads Warren County Weather Woodstock

News | Sports | Business | Lifestyle | Obituaries | Opinion | Multimedia| Entertainment | Homes | Classifieds
Guide to the Daily: Advertise | Circulation | Contact Us | NIE | Place a Classified | Privacy Policy | Subscribe

Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily | nvdaily.com | 152 N. Holliday St., Strasburg, Va. 22657 | (800) 296-5137

Best Small Daily Newspaper in Virginia!

nvdaily.com | seeshenandoah.com