On September 25, the University of Richmond Law Review celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Hon. Robert J. Merhige Jr.’s appointment to the bench with a special commemoration. A 1942 graduate of Richmond Law, Judge Merhige is best remembered for his work on desegregation cases in the 1970s, for which he was the subject of much public condemnation. He’s also known for ordering the University of Virginia to admit women, his work on the kepone chemical spill litigation, and many more landmark cases.

The Hon. Roger Gregory, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the Hon. Anne B. Holton, visiting professor of education policy at George Mason University, delivered keynote addresses. Judge Gregory and Secretary Holton were both students in public schools in Virginia during the desegregation orders. Secretary Holton went on to clerk for Judge Merhige in 1983-1984. In her remarks, Secretary Holton spoke of Judge Merhige’s courage and respect for humanity. “Courage just came so naturally to him,” she said. “He didn’t see fear.”

“Judge Merhige taught me so much about being a litigator, and how important it is to stay focused, to stay honest to justice,” said Judge Gregory. “He only had one client, and that was the law.”

A panel of clerks also provided a series of reflections – and stories – from their years with Judge Merhige. Professor Mary Kelly Tate, herself a former clerk, moderated a discussion with Gregory Golden, J.G. Ritter, Rita Ruby, and Michael Smith. 

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