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November 18, 2020

Coppage seeks general district court judgeship

Photo/Walker Jones PC
A Fauquier High School graduate, Allison E. Coppage earned a bachelor’s degree at Virginia Tech before going to law school in Ohio. She has worked 21 years as a lawyer after four years as a paralegal.
She is very good at figuring out what the issue is, and then fixing the problem . . . . She is unflappable.”
— Julia Savage, law firm colleague
Allison Elizabeth Coppage
• Age: 50

• Work: Lawyer, Walker Jones PC, Warrenton, 2001 to present; substitute judge, general district and juvenile and domestic relations courts, 2017 to present; office assistant, Loudoun County Commissioner of Accounts, 2000-01; lawyer, Bradley Frick & Associates, Columbus, Ohio, 1999 to 2000; paralegal, Bradley Frick & Associates, 1995-99.

• Home: Warrenton.

• Position sought: Fauquier General District Court judgeship.

• Education: Law degree, Capital (Ohio) University, 1999; bachelor’s degree, political science, Virginia Tech, 1994; Fauquier High School, 1988.

• Family: Children, daughter Claire, 17, and son Grayson, 14; husband Donnie died in 2013 at age 45 of a heart attack.

• Hobbies: Reading, exercising at gym, swimming.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Warrenton lawyer believes her work and life experience make her a strong candidate to fill the soon-vacant Fauquier County General District Court judgeship.

After nine years on that bench, Judge J. Gregory Ashwell, 63, last week announced he would retire, effective Jan.1.

Allison E. Coppage, 50, an attorney with the Walker Jones firm in Warrenton, hopes to succeed Judge Ashwell.

Mrs. Coppage would bring about 25 years of courtroom experience — 21 as a lawyer and four as a paralegal — to the job.

For the past three years, the Warrenton resident also has served as a substitute judge in general district and juvenile and domestic relations courts in Fauquier and elsewhere.

“My bread and butter is certainly family law,” said Mrs. Coppage, who joined Walker Jones in 2001. “That’s what I started with when I was in Ohio and that’s what I knew best.”

But, “as a beginning lawyer, you kind of have to do whatever they give you,” the Virginia native added. “So I’ve done landlord/tenant, criminal law, general civil litigation, some wills and estates.”

Her work as substitute judge also has proven invaluable, Mrs. Coppage said.

“It has given me a different perspective, being on the bench versus a litigator,” she explained. “I can learn from other attorneys who appear before me. I can learn from the commonwealth attorneys, the public defenders.

“You get to see the way good jurists balance the evidence and balance the fairness of a case.”

She works 20 to 30 days per year as a substitute judge, giving her a hands-on appreciation of the volume and variety of civil and criminal cases that general district court judges handle, Mrs. Coppage said.

The 20th Judicial District includes Fauquier, Loudoun and Rappahannock counties.

Historically, the judge who sits in Warrenton has served only Fauquier and Rappahannock counties.

If appointed by the Virginia General Assembly to a six-year term, Mrs. Coppage would be the first female general district court judge assigned to Warrenton. (The legislature in February 2017 appointed Melissa N. Cupp to the local juvenile and domestic relations court bench.)

As a woman and parent, Mrs. Coppage believes she would provide a different and useful “perspective” to the bench.

“I think I have perspective as a woman, in some instances,” she said. “I’ve had to raise two children for at least the last seven years by myself — not that litigants are like children. But I think you learn to see different perspectives as a parent.”

The mother of two children, Mrs. Coppage’s husband Donnie died in 2013 of a heart attack at age 45.

The loss taught her many things, including how to juggle her professional and personal responsibilities.

“I’ve had to balance my career with my children,” Mrs. Coppage said.

That sense of balance also applies to clients — helping them decide whether cases should “go to trial or settlement,” she said.

Julie Savage, who also specializes in domestic law, joined Walker Jones about 34 years ago.

Mrs. Savage described Mrs. Coppage as diligent, well-rounded and results-oriented.

“A lot of times in domestic cases you get bogged down in the minutiae,” said Mrs. Savage, 63. “Allison’s good at getting in the trenches and ploughing through to a more practical solution.

“She is very good at figuring out what the issue is, and then fixing the problem.”

Besides a broad knowledge of the law, Mrs. Coppage possesses the “judicial temperament” to do the job well, her colleague said.

“I think that’s one of her best attributes,” said Mrs. Savage, who had served about 15 years as a substitute judge. “She is unflappable.”

If appointed to the bench, Mrs. Coppage would be “an excellent judge,” she added. “But, we would hate to lose her.”

Established in 1978, the firm has produced four judges.

Contact Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-0300.
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