Clark presides over the 21st Judicial Circuit Court in Martinsville where he has served as a circuit court judge since 1995. Clark, whose father was also a Virginia lawyer, was nominated by the Patrick County Bar and seconded by lawyers from private practice, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, and the Office of the Public Defender.
Clark, a published author of four legal thrillers, was called “the thinking man’s John Grisham” by the New York Times and “hands down, our finest legal-thriller writer” by Entertainment Weekly. Yet despite his successful writing career, each of the lawyers who nominated him spoke of his dedication, preparation, and patience on the bench.
“Like his father, Judge Clark is always prepared for every case,” wrote Alan Black of Alan Black PLC. “Every day and all day Judge Clark is welcoming, polite and patient with everyone who comes before him.”
Clark is not afraid to make an unpopular decision, and once removed a portrait of JEB Stuart from the courtroom, despite the fact that the county seat where he serves is named after JEB Stuart. Said Clark, “…the courtroom should be a place every litigant and spectator finds fair and utterly neutral. In my estimation, the portrait of a uniformed Confederate general – and a slave owner himself – does not comport with that essential standard.”
Caitlin Reynolds-Vivanco of the Office of the Public Defender wrote of the portrait’s removal, “His actions were based in his desire to make the criminal justice system fair and accessible to all.” She continued, “He is fair and just to all who come before him and demonstrates sympathy and understanding to everyone in his courtroom.”
Stephanie Brinegar Vipperman of the Patrick County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office wrote, “He encourages good relations between prosecutors and the defense bar, and has even helped resolve some personal disputes between lawyers. His door is always open.” She adds, “Observing just one day in Judge Clark’s courtroom would confirm his dedication to excellence through competence, fairness, integrity, and courtesy.”
Wren M. Williams, of Schneider & Williams P.C. wrote, “The majority of his docket is criminal, with most defendants being indigent… I have never once seen Judge Clark look down on a defendant or treat them with disrespect within or outside of his courtroom… He should be applauded for his focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment.”
Clark’s novels have won numerous writing awards, including the Washington Post’s Best Book of the Year. In his free time, he enjoys fly fishing. He lives on his farm with his wife, Deana, a photographer, as well as a menagerie of animals.
The Carrico award will be presented on February 9, 2018, during the section’s 48th Annual Criminal Law Seminar in Williamsburg. The award was named for the former Supreme Court of Virginia chief justice who promoted the ideals of professionalism during his 42 years on the state’s highest court.Updated: Jan 26, 2018
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