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Wearing the Black Robe headline

Fall-Winter 20-21 cover
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Fall/Winter 20-21 issue
, including the
article Reform Needed But Unlikely.

One of the great pleasures of the work that I do is to interview people like The Honorable Cynthia D. Kinser in the fall of 2014. She was the first female chief justice of Virginia's Supreme Court. I thought about Kinser a lot, as I watched every minute of the hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, then nominee, now official, U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

We talked for an hour or so in the Speaker's Conference Room. I was impressed by her humility and her expertise. I remember one brief moment in particular. She spoke of the heavy responsibility of following the law, regardless of the judge's personal preferences. If it were otherwise, we could all skip the study of the law, and we could all be "armchair judges."

"Right," I nodded. "It's not as if the law is a referendum." We looked at each other in complete knowing, complete understanding.

Worthy or not, it was a point bitterly debated in Barrett's nomination hearings. Such lofty thoughts were batted around repeatedly the past month, a month that produced arguments from all sides. It was, and is, an historical time.

Now that our attention is directed to the bar and the bench, Virginia Capitol Connections Quarterly Magazine has asked various voices (both partisan and neutral) from the Commonwealth to offer their thoughts on how things are done here in Virginia. Are we doing it right? Are we doing it wrong? Our state goes by different rules from the United States Constitution. We have our own Virginia Constitution which governs the process, from selection to terms of office.

If we are to draw one conclusion from these viewpoints, even if we disagree on some specifics, whether you are alarmed or relieved about the court system, it is that our state Constitution, our goal of separation of powers, and our rule of law, is a value to be cherished.

Bonnie Atwood, J.D., is a 1996 graduate of the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond. She is also editor of Virginia Capitol Connections Quarterly Magazine.