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Michael Phelan
Michael Phelan
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Virginia Loses a Great Jurist- Hon. John W. Scott, Jr.

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Judge Scott, who sat in the Fredericksburg Circuit Court for the past 12 years, died yesterday after having surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  Judge Scott was a pioneer as the Fredericksburg area’s first African American judge.  He was a civil rights advocate from the time he was a teenager when he won a federal civil rights lawsuit for the right to attend James Monroe High School.  He went on to work for the nationally renowned civil rights law firm started by Oliver Hill.

Judge Scott will be remembered for his civility and intelligence.  The first time I met him was when I had a pre-trial conference for a case in Fredericksburg.  Judge Scott held these conferences in his office, rather than in the courtroom.  The Fredericksburg Clerk’s Office security is set up in a way requiring the attorneys to wait in an exterior room until someone came out to grant them access.   Judge Scott appeared in his shirtsleeves to greet us and lead us to his office.  He was so friendly and humble that we were not sure if he was the judge or a bailiff.  His first order of business was to get to know the attorneys who were each appearing before him for the first time.

We quickly learned that Judge Scott was nearly blind as he shared with us that he would be having eye surgery shortly before our trial commenced.  During this complicated week-long products liability trial, Judge Scott could not see a thing, including the preliminary jury instructions.  He flawlessly recited them from memory.  This trial was preceded by many motions in limine.  At the conclusion of each hearing, Judge Scott was ready to rule on the spot because he knew the law cold.

Judge Scott was a brilliant, courageous jurist who will be sorely missed.