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October 31, 2019

Retiring Judge Parker always “tried to get it right”

I’ve put in my time. I’m 67 years old. I want to be able to enjoy the time I’ve got left. I want to get out there, do a few things besides working every day. Enough’s enough.
— Judge Jeffrey W. Parker
Jeffrey Woodland Parker
• Age: 67

• Home: Near Sumerduck

• Work: 20th Circuit Court judge, assigned to Fauquier and Rappahannock counties, 2001-Oct. 31; attorney, Niles, Chapman and Dulaney and later Dulaney, Parker and Lauer, 1981-2001; attorney, Allen and Parker LLC, Charlottesville, 1980-81.

• Education: Law degree, Washington and Lee University, 1977; bachelor’s degree, business administration, University of Michigan, 1974; Surrattsville (Md.) High School, 1970.

• Family: Wife Lawrie; 4 children; 4 grandchildren

• Hobbies: Farming, hunting
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Warrenton lawyer likened it to a my-time opportunity.

In the late 1990s, the Virginia General Assembly established and funded an additional 20th Judicial Circuit judgeship, recalled Jeffrey W. Parker.

Fellow Old Town attorney Jud A. Fischel planned to seek the position and asked for his support.

“Jud said he wanted to become a judge and I thought, ‘Gee, maybe I could be a judge.’ It was as simple as that.”

While both men sought the job, the legislature elected Loudoun County lawyer Jean H. Clements to the judgeship. Judge Clements, who presided in Leesburg, held the seat for two years, until the General Assembly elevated her to the Virginia Court of Appeals.

But the experience prepared Mr. Parker for what proved a successful bid to succeed Judge W. Shore Robertson of Warrenton, who retired in 2001. The circuit includes Fauquier, Loudoun and Rappahannock counties.

“I actually made a credible run for” the judgeship in 1998 “and got to talk with the senators and the delegates that were going to be involved in making the ultimate selection,” Judge Parker said.

Over nearly two decades on the bench, he has ruled on all manner of criminal and civil cases, ranging from murder, drug, embezzlement and property crimes to divorce, appeals of child custody decisions and land-use matters.

As planned, Judge Parker’s retirement takes effect Friday, Nov. 1. The Sumerduck resident announced the decision in January.

During a recent 90-minute interview in his office at the county courthouse in Warrenton, Judge Parker spoke about his reasons for leaving the bench after 18-1/2 years, his legal career, post-retirement plans and more.

“I’ve put in my time,” Judge Parker said of his decision to step down. “I’m 67 years old. I want to be able to enjoy the time I’ve got left. I want to get out there, do a few things besides working every day. Enough’s enough.”

Retirement eligibility and health considerations also influenced his decision to leave before his term ends, he said.

Fully vested in the Virginia Retirement System, Judge Parker has undergone back, hip and knee surgery. He soon will have a vertebrae fusion procedure.

“To me, at the end of the day, it’s having worked hard and having done the right thing,” Judge Parker said of the more satisfying aspects of the work. “The most important thing to me is to get it right.”

The only child of career military man, he and his family frequently relocated.

Born in Boise, Idaho, Judge Parker ultimately graduated from Maryland’s Surrattsville High School in 1970, then earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan.

A “mild” nationwide recession created an especially tight job market in the automobile-manufacturing-dependent state.

“Sometimes they say if the country catches a cold, Detroit would catch pneumonia, because it was so centered on the automobile industry in those days,” Judge Parker said. “So, when the country was going through a mild recession, Michigan was almost going through a depression.”

That prompted him to apply to law school.

“I felt you could make difference as a lawyer,” he explained. “And, to be frank, it also had the attraction of being a good-income profession.”

He also enjoyed “debating points,” Judge Parker said. “I think if you like that type of thing, I think the law could be a good profession for you.”

In 1977, he earned a law degree from Washington & Lee University in Lexington. Four years later, he joined Niles, Chapman and Dulaney as an associate, based in its Warrenton office.

“I did a little bit of everything,” Judge Parker said of his early years with the firm, where he eventually rose to partner. “Criminal, domestic, real estate. I was on the court-appointed list. I did a lot of things a young lawyer does when he’s in a small firm, a small community. You sort of name it, I did it.”

And, he excelled in most areas of the law, according to former colleague Andrew Thomas.

“He did a lot of things and, frankly, very well,” said Mr. Thomas, who worked five years with Mr. Parker in the firm’s Warrenton office.

As a young Northern Virginia lawyer in the 1990s, he knew of “Jeff Parker by reputation,” remembered Mr. Thomas, a partner with Dulaney, Lauer and Thomas.

Northern Virginia attorneys viewed Mr. Parker as a “very strong lawyer and good guy,” he said. “True to word, he was a very aggressive and honest advocate.”

Judge Parker believes his broad private practice experience equipped him for the bench.

Because he had become a judge at age 49, “I had seen a few things. So, I wasn’t surprised by anything in particular.”

Both as lawyer and a judge, he found it hard to handle domestic cases — divorces and child custody disputes.

“I would say child custody cases are probably as difficult as any,” Judge Parker said. “When you have a child custody case, invariably you’re going to have at least one of the parties crying in the courtroom.”

Drug and drug-related cases made up about two-thirds of his docket, Judge Parker said.

Over the years, the “biggest change is the type of drugs,” he said. “It used to be the most serious drug you’d see was crack cocaine. Now you see the opiates, and they seem to drive so many of the property crimes we see on a regular basis.”

Illegal use of opioids “among the younger generation” particularly puzzles and troubles him.

“It doesn’t seem to bother them that they’re putting something into their system that’s going to cause them to be addicted and commit other crimes. Frankly, I can’t imagine why anyone would use that stuff. And yet they do it on an incredible basis.”

Embezzlement cases also seem on the rise, Judge Parker said.

“Sometimes, I think it’s a lack of morality,” he said. “They’ll steal from people they’ve had over to their house for dinner and who they socialize with on a daily basis. It’s like they don’t have a conscience.”

A big part of the job, sentencing requires “compassion” and “empathy,” Judge Parker said.

But “you can’t let it dominate your decision,” he stressed. “Most of the people that get the long sentences (10 to 20 years), frankly, have it coming.”

An appropriately stiff penalty sends a message that the guilty party has “done some bad things, and this is the conscience of the community I’m speaking for in imposing this sentence to say, ‘We don’t approve of what you’ve done’.”

Local attorneys describe Judge Parker as open-minded, respectful and deliberate.

“I think he’s always very fair,” Warrenton lawyer Mark Williams said. “I didn’t always agree with him 100 percent of the time. He may not have bought what I had to say, but he certainly would listen.”

Early during Judge Parker’s career, Mr. Williams and Warrenton lawyer Robin Gulick defended a man charged with murder.

In that case, the judge “did something that I thought was extraordinary,” Mr. Williams recalled. “He granted a motion” to dismiss the case rather than send it to a jury to determine his client’s guilt or innocence.

“It took a lot of courage to do that,” the attorney said. “We thought the evidence was insufficient to go forward to the jury. The case was dismissed entirely.

“It’s a whole lot easier to let the jury make the decision and ‘not me’.”

Of the thousands of rulings Judge Parker has made, the Virginia Supreme Court has reversed several.

Representing a client, Warrenton lawyer Will Ashwell four years ago successfully appealed Judge Parker’s interpretation of a state statute related to the collection of attorney’s fees.

The civil dispute involved easement issues, alleged timber trespassing and property damage.

“It was one of those cases that put the court in a tough position,” Mr. Ashwell said. “I think that’s what can happen with unclear statutes.”

To Judge Parker’s “credit,” the General Assembly “immediately” changed the law after the Supreme Court ruling to “correct some of the vagueness, some of the issues with that statute,” Mr. Ashwell added.

The high court’s reversals sting a little bit, Judge Parker admitted.

“No judge enjoys it,” he said. But, “you can’t do this job any length of time and not get reversed . . . . I don’t always have the Supreme Court agree with me. But most of the time, I think I was right to begin with.”

For much of her 18-year-career, Deputy Clerk Tina Oehser has sat beside Judge Parker in court during thousands of proceedings.

“He’s always polite,” Ms. Oehser said. “I’m just amazed. We have some rough people come through. He just looks at the case.”

The veteran clerk spoke about a side of Judge Parker perhaps less visible to most.

“He’s really approachable, if you want to talk about anything,” Ms. Oehser said. “His door is always open. He’s very down to earth.”

Level-headed, Judge Parker possesses “tons of common sense” and sense of humor, the clerk added. “We’re going to miss that.”

Judge Parker views his bench appointment as a “capstone” to his legal career.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging about myself,” he said. “I want to avoid that appearance. But, you can’t help think that it is a position of esteem. And so I think individuals do tend to look up, for the most part, to judges.”

The state has an “outstanding” judiciary system,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in being a Virginia judge. I think we all do that as a member of this fraternity.”

But Judge Parker in September 2017 ran afoul of the law when Stafford County deputies arrested him for allegedly assaulting a Walmart employee over jewelry that he found in the Stafford store’s parking lot.

Later that month, the misdemeanor charge got dropped after a brief Stafford County General District Court hearing.

Judge Parker and Mr. Gulick, who represented him in the Walmart incident, refused to comment on the case.

Health permitting, Judge Parker plans to travel, play golf, hunt and maybe buy a power boat.

“Enjoy the time I’ve got left.”

He also may work the bench as a substitute judge.

“I haven’t fully decided yet.”

Former Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney James E. Plowman will succeed Judge Parker. Elected by the General Assembly in February, Mr. Plowman’s an eight-year term starts Nov. 1.

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.


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Harrington · November 2, 2019 at 12:42 pm
Well one thing Parker did was get it wrong more then right . During his reappointment hearing he was the lowest score judge in the state of Virginia, remember he assaulted a Walmart clerk, used the good ole boy system to get the charges dropped. He used the bench to attack private citizens who spoke up about the
Conflict of interest with his wife’s position as a mediator! The Good news is he is off the bench and the justice will now maybe restored to the Bench.
JudicialEthics · November 1, 2019 at 10:35 am
Jud A. Fischel ? He was charged with raping a client in his office. Where's he now ? Gone as well. Shame on Fauquier for letting these predators: Fischel, Parker and Bean prey on children, the elderly and the poor. Shame. Shame. Shame.
JudicialEthics · November 1, 2019 at 10:29 am
What a self-serving piece for a man who had no moral bearings whatsoever, and who was appointed for political reasons not for his qualifications to do the job.
Now, he's been kicked off the bench. His collaborator and neighbor, Lorenzo Lee Bean III was dis-barred from the practice of law.
Parker was never a "judge" - he was a political appointee who abused his judicial appointment, who was abusive of people he thought were beneath him and who no doubt took payments to throw cases for his white, male buddies in Fauquier. Shame on him and on his enablers.
His video-recorded assault on the Stafford Walmart clerk was finally the tipping point - at his last "interview" by the General Assembly he knew his days were numbered. Good riddance to an evil man.
Bekemp · November 1, 2019 at 8:34 am
Best wishes in your retirement, and thank you for your service.

To those who criticize: Remember,it must be tough being a judge. First of all, you're human, you will make mistakes no matter how hard you work and how well-intentioned you are. Second, somebody will be disappointed (angry) with every decision you make.

Linda Ward · October 31, 2019 at 1:43 pm
Enough’s enough.
— Judge Jeffrey W. Parker

Exactly, enough is enough of this person sitting in judgment of others.
Cammie Rodgers · October 31, 2019 at 1:41 pm
Tried is right. He "tried" much harder for people with money and friends of his then he did for the rest of community. Good riddance!
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