FRONT ROYAL – The law community lauded retired Judge Ronald L. Napier on Friday for his years of service on the bench and as an attorney.
Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. presided over a special session in Warren County Circuit Court held in honor of Napier, who retired in the summer. Napier served Virginia’s 26th Judicial Circuit first in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and then as a circuit judge primarily presiding over cases in Warren County Circuit Court.
Napier’s wife Kathy and the judge’s brother, Front Royal Town Attorney Douglas Napier, and other family members joined court clerks and local attorneys in the courtroom gallery for the event. Current circuit Judges Bruce D. Albertson, Alexander R. Iden and Clark A. Ritchie attended the session along with retired Judges John E. “Jay” Wetsel Jr., James V. Lane and Dennis L. Hupp. Judges from other courts in the circuit also appeared for the event along with area elected officials.
“On these types of occasions, special sessions of court are convened to honor someone who has rendered singularly distinguished service to the administration of justice and service to the public and for the purpose of receiving a commemorative resolution, which is why we are here today,” Athey told the audience.
Ronald Napier thanked his colleagues and spoke about his life in the law community.
“This has been a journey of 40 years for me,” he said. “I have to confess that it’s my brother Doug’s fault that I had entered this field.”
Ronald Napier said he attended graduate school at the University of North Carolina studying “an obscure area of statistics,” but didn’t feel happy in the program and dropped out. He recalled his brother telling him to go to law school.
“You’ll like it,” Ronald Napier recalled his brother saying.
Ronald Napier said he applied to 10 law schools, including several Ivy League institutions, of which six accepted him. He said he turned down a chance to attend Cornell University in favor of the University of Virginia’s law school. He pointed out that the University of Virginia was less expensive and the winters were not as harsh as those at Cornell.
He spoke of the people in the law community with whom he worked throughout the years. He also thanked the court clerks, who he said do the bulk of the work.
Kimberly B.W. Emerson, president of the Warren County Bar Association, introduced members of the group’s committee in charge of drafting the commemorative resolution later entered into the court record.
Douglas Napier read the resolution that provided details of his brother’s education, career as an attorney and service on the bench.
Ronald Napier grew up in Front Royal and graduated from Warren County High School in 1973. He graduated from Mary Washington College, now University, with a bachelor’s of science degree in mathematics in 1977.
Douglas Napier pointed out that his brother enrolled at Mary Washington College at a time when the formerly all-women’s institution began to accept men. The ratio of women to men at the school at that time was one man for every 286 women, Douglas Napier noted.
He joked as to whether or not this ratio had an influence on his brother’s decision to attend the college rather than the University of Virginia, where the ratio was the other way around. Ronald Napier eventually did attend the University of Virginia at its law school.
Ronald Napier received his law degree and returned to Front Royal where he started a practice with Douglas Napier in the early 1980s. The brothers practiced law together until 1998 when Douglas Napier took the position of county attorney for Warren County. Ronald Napier continued to practice law and was appointed in 1994 to serve as a substitute judge.
The Virginia General Assembly elected Ronald Napier in 2006 to a post as judge for the Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. The General Assembly elected him to a circuit court seat in 2014.
The resolution lauded Ronald Napier for his service as an attorney and a judge. The resolution also noted his hobbies include fishing, cooking, collecting antiques and sampling high-quality whiskeys. Douglas Napier later gave his brother a belated birthday present – hand-tied flies used in fishing.
Athey sustained the motion to accept the commemorative resolution and ordered that the offices of the circuit courts clerks record the document.
Judges Hupp, Ritchie and Wetsel spoke about their experiences working with Ronald Napier over the years. Also at the event, Ronald Napier’s family unveiled his official portrait that will hang along with the portraits of past judges in the courtroom.