When Hon. Judith Wheat became Chief Judge of the Arlington County Circuit Court last week, she made history on two fronts.
She is the first woman Chief Judge the Circuit Court has ever had and, with her in the role, all three local courts now have a woman presiding as the lead judge.
Wheat assumed the responsibility last Thursday, replacing Hon. William T. Newman, Jr., who retired at the end of June. She makes the third in a trifecta of women chief justices in Arlington, joining Hon. R. Frances O’Brien, who leads the General District Court, and Hon. Robin Robb, who leads Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
“It is historical and I’m excited about that,” says Circuit Court Clerk Paul Ferguson.
The courthouse has seen a flurry of activity with the retirement of Newman, a local living historical figure.
Newman joined the Circuit Court in 1993, after serving two terms as Arlington’s first Black County Board member. He was appointed Chief Judge in 2003. He also founded the local nonprofit Arlington Community Foundation and moonlit as an actor in plays and on the TV screen.
“He’s a big part of Arlington history and we turned a big page with him ending his career in Arlington,” Ferguson said.
The courthouse celebrated Newman with send-offs fitting for a local celebrity and his notable wife, Sheila Johnson — the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, a hotelier CEO, co-owner of the Washington Capitals and Wizards, and managing partner of the Mystics.
Additionally, the state legislature honored Newman during its 2023 session with a resolution saying he “presided over the court with great fairness and wisdom,” the Gazette Leader reported. The judge told the publication he is joining former Circuit Court Chief Judge Paul Sheridan and former Circuit Court Judge Joanne Alper at a regional firm that provides dispute resolution services.
As for Wheat becoming Chief Judge, Ferguson says the process is a bit of a mystery.
“Nobody knows really how a Chief Judge is chosen,” Ferguson said. “History would show that the General District Court and Juvenile Court tend to rotate the position, like the County Board and School Board.”
Contrast that with the Circuit Court, where Newman was the chief justice for 20 years. His recent predecessor, Sheridan, and the chief justices before him — William Winston and Walter McCarthy — had similarly long tenures as chief. State law requires judges to step down when they reach 73 years old.
Ferguson notes Wheat joined the Circuit Court later in life and “had a significant career” before doing so.
She worked as a courtroom clerk in the Arlington Circuit Court while attending night school at Georgetown University’s law school, according to the county. After graduating, she clerked for Hon. Barbara M. Keenan. She worked as a partner at Venable LLP and at Cacheris & Treanor before founding a new firm, Griffith & Wheat, in D.C. in 2009.
Upon her appointment, she joked in an acceptance speech that “even without the $47 million salary, it’s pretty cool” to be “Arlington’s Judge Judy.”
Outside of work, Wheat has been active in the local legal community, per her bio on the county website. She has served on the boards of the Arlington Alcohol Safety Action Program and the Walter T. McCarthy Law Library and taught trial advocacy and deposition skills with the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.
Newman’s vacancy has been filled by former General District Court Judge Dan Lopez. Cari Steele, formerly the Commonwealth’s Attorney Chief Deputy, replaces Lopez on the General District Court. While the first day for the justices was technically Saturday, they adjudicated their first dockets yesterday (Wednesday).
The Circuit Court made headlines three years ago when, early in the tenure of Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, they began seeking written briefs on of all proposed case dismissals.
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
There’s no official word on its website, but it looks like Bar Ivy in Clarendon may have closed permanently.
There’s persistence, and then there is Audrey Clement and her decade-plus effort to get elected to local office in Arlington. Clement talked with ARLnow editor Scott Brodbeck to talk about…
Makers Union, an upscale gastropub, is set to open its doors in Pentagon City next week, says Alex Brown, the restaurant’s director of operations. This opening marks the third Makers Union location in the D.C. Metropolitan area, following the debut of its Reston location three years ago and a recent opening at the Wharf in early October.
Children’s Weekday Program (CWP) is a non-profit preschool rooted in a play-based philosophy. We focus on developing a love of learning and exploration, cooperation, empathy, and independence.
Our caring and experienced educators create opportunities for children 16 months to 5 years old to play, learn, and grow in a nurturing environment of child-centered and developmentally appropriate experiences.
Initially established more than 50 years ago in South Arlington, CWP continues to be a lauded program in the Northern Virginia area. We are extremely proud to have been recognized as a Best Preschool in Northern Virginia Magazine for the last 4 years.
Located now in North Arlington at 2666 Military Road, CWP offers a part-time parents day out and preschool program with options to extend care both before and after school. We offer a supportive and inclusive school community for children and parents alike and welcome all families to join our school!
The Optimist Club of Arlington is holding its 77th annual Christmas tree sale!
This year, the tree sale will be held at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road). The lot opens for sales on November 24th. The Optimist Club is selling small and large trees ranging from tabletop size to 10 foot tall trees! Wreaths, garland, tree stands, and White House Christmas ornaments will also be for sale.
100% of all proceeds go towards helping Arlington County youth.
For more information, please visit the Arlington Optimists website at https://optimistclubofarlingtonva.org/.
Holiday Art Show featuring artists: Peter Fitzgerald, Claire Plante, Alanna Rivera, and Suzy Scollon. At the Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan St., Arlington, VA. Dec. 8 from, 2 PM to 8 PM and Dec. 9 from 10 AM to
2023 Christmas Tree Sales Begin
Saturday, December 2
Get your holiday decorating off to the right start this year! We will be selling 150 Fraser firs, freshly cut and delivered from Sparta, North Carolina.