Archive for the 'School of Law' Category

Ike Smith ’57, ’60L Honored by W.Va. Chamber

Isaac N. Smith Jr. '57, '60L from his days on the W&L Board of Trustees (1980-1991)

Congratulations to Isaac N. “Ike” Smith Jr., of the Classes of 1957 undergraduate and 1960 law, who was one of six West Virginia business leaders inducted into the inaugural class of  the new West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame.

Announcement of the induction, part of the West Virginia Chamber’s 75th anniversary, was made during the organizaiton’s annual meeting and Business Summit at the Greenbrier earlier this month.

Ike is the former president and CEO of Charleston-based Kanawha Banking & Trust Co. and Intermountain Bancshares. He has served as chairman of the West Virginia Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce and as a district governor for Rotary International.

Ike, a trustee emeritus of Washington and Lee University, also managed four family land companies: Kanawha City Company, West Virginia Coal land Company, Kanawha Company, and Roxalana Land Company, the operation of which caused him to be named in The State Journal’s 1997 Who’s Who in West Virginia Business. These four companies merged to form a new company, Kanawha-Roxalana Company, and Ike is president and CEO.

Sixty Years in the Law

Kermit L. Racey '49, 51L

At 88 years old, Kermit L. Racey is still practicing law in Woodstock, Va., something he’s been doing for six decades. But, in a wonderful feature story in the July 22 edition of The Northern Virginia Daily, Kermit admitted that “I’m getting to the point where I’ve slowed down considerably.” So Kermit, who received both his bachelor’s and law degrees from W&L, says he might make this his last year of practice. Not that he’s really contemplating retirement, though. He plans to write a book about his experiences.

Kermit entered the University after serving in World War II and partook of a special program offered at the time, earning his undergraduate degree in 1949 and his law degree in 1951. After graduating, he spent six years as a judge advocate general in Europe and North Africa before returning to Woodstock, where he sat for 10 years as a county judge, spent one term as commonwealth’s attorney and has practiced with his son Kermit II in the firm Racey & Racey.

The Northern Virginia Daily story includes numerous anecdotes from Kermit’s courtroom days, including his view that lawyers used to be much friendlier with one another, and his philosophy that you have to win more than 50 percent of your cases to avoid being a failure.

Maryland Bar Honors W&L Alum Hamp Tisdale ’74L

Judge John H. Tisdale '74L

During its annual meeting in Ocean City, Md., earlier this month, the Maryland State Bar Association honored Judge John H. (Hamp) Tisdale, of Washington and Lee’s Law School Class of 1974, with the 2011 Anselm Sodaro Award for Judicial Civility.

Hamp has been associate judge of the Frederick (Md.) County Circuit Court, 6th Judicial Circuit, since January 1995. He announced earlier this year that he would be retiring this month.

The Sodaro Award, named for a former judge of the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City Circuit Court, is given to a Maryland judge “whose courtroom demeanor best exemplifies the high ideals of civility and courtesy practiced by the late Judge Anselm Sodaro.”

Hamp was praised for “his deep regard for those appearing before him by treating all with courtesy, dignity and respect. He has been described as ‘the epitome of judicial temperament, . . . a gentleman and a scholar, with apparently unlimited patience and a genuine civility toward jurors, litigants, witnesses and … attorneys.'”

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Hamp entered the W&L Law School after four years of active duty in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He had a general practice in Frederick, Md., before being named to the circuit court. Involved in a variety of committees with the state board, Hamp will finish a term as chair of the Judicial Ethics Committee of the Maryland Judicial Conference.

Law Alum Part of Pro Bono Honor

Brant Phillips '97L

Brant Phillips, a 1997 graduate of the Washington and Lee School of Law, was part of a small team of lawyers from his Nashville firm, Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, that spent more than two-and-a-half years and invested more than 2,500 hours in a clemency petition effort on behalf of Edward Jerome Harbison, a Tennessee death row inmate.

A month before Harbison’s scheduled execution, in January 2011, Tennessee Gov. Philip Bredesen commuted Harbison’s sentence to life without parole. Earlier this year Brant and the law firm were honored with the Tennessee Bar Association’s 2011 Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative Award for work on the case.

Harbison was sentenced to death by a Tennessee court in 1983, and, for nearly 27 years, he had attempted to get his sentence overturned through state and federal legislation. Through their work, Brant and his team showed that Harbison’s death sentence was the result of ineffective counsel and that the sentence was disproportionate to the punishment given to others who committed similar crimes in the state.

In nominating the firm for the Tennessee Bar Association honor, Nashville lawyer David Garrison with the law firm of Barrett Johnston wrote, “Few firms in Tennessee could have (or would have) brought to bear the resources that were necessary to make this outcome for Mr. Harbison possible. Bass Berry’s willingness to do so sets an example for other large law firms in our state and shows an ongoing commitment to justice for the indigent and underserved that deserves to be recognized.”

Brant is a member of Bass, Berry & Sims’ litigation and government advocacy practice areas. He handles complex business litigation, recently serving as lead counsel for King Pharmaceuticals Inc. and its board in shareholder class actions relating to $3.6 billion buyout of King by Pfizer Inc., as well as securities and shareholder class action defense, derivative actions and business fraud. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America® for administrative law and the Nashville Business Journal’s Best of the Bar (2008). He joined the Nashville firm in 1998 after serving as a law clerk to Judge William M. Acker Jr., on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Law Alum’s Documentary on Henry Clay Airs

Kent Masterson Brown

“Henry Clay and the Struggle for the Union,” a documentary on Henry Clay and his role in the events that led up to the Civil War, is airing this month on Kentucky’s PBS affiliate, KET. The hour-long program was written and is hosted by Kent Masterson Brown, a 1974 graduate of Washington and Lee’s School of Law and a well-known historian.

Kent is in private law practice in Lexington, Ky., but continues to research and write on Civil War topics. Not only he is the founder and former editor in chief of The Civil War: The Magazine of the Civil War Society, but he also has won numerous awards for his books, which include Retreat From Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics and the Pennsylvania Campaign, Cushing of Gettysburg: The Story of a Union Artillery Commander, and The Civil War in Kentucky: Battle for the Bluegrass State.

The new documentary aired for the first time on Monday night (June 13) but has numerous other air dates coming up this month. And for those who can’t see it on TV, the DVD is also available for purchase online at

In a news release announcing the program, Kent describes it as exploring “the impact of slavery on the westward expansion of the nation and how the conflict between North and South was, in the end, irrepressible. History is nothing but lessons and there is much we can glean from Clay’s political career and the Compromises of 1820, 1833 and 1850.”

The documentary was produced by Witnessing History L.L.C., which was founded in 2007 by Ken and producer-director Douglas High. In addition to producing documentaries and publishing books, the company hosts guided tours of Civil War battlefields.

Retiring Attorney

Al Mitchell '67L

After four terms as commonwealth’s attorney for Shenandoah County, Va., Washington and Lee law alumnus Albert T. Mitchell, of the Class of 1967, has announced he won’t seek re-election in November. Al was appointed to the position by the judges of the 26th Judicial Circuit in 1999 and then was elected to the position in November of that same year.

In an article announcing his decision in the Northern Virginia Daily, Al said that, as a prosecutor, he enjoys the legal questions that arise out of every case, whether it has a high profile or not. “There are decisions you have to make every day in district court. Someone running a stop sign, reckless driving, DUI; there are so many different kinds of evidence,” he told the paper. “No two cases have ever been identical.”

Al received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Richmond before earning the law degree at W&L. He has practiced law in Shenandoah County since 1967 and has been town attorney for Woodstock, Va., from 1970 to the present. Before he was appointed commonwealth’s attorney, he had spent nine years as an assistant.

Roscoe B. Stephenson Jr. ’43, ’47L Dies at 89

Justice Roscoe B. Stephenson Jr. '43, '47L

In the eight years that Washington and Lee alumnus Roscoe B. Stephenson Jr. served as judge of the Alleghany County Circuit Court, his decisions were never reversed. That is surely one of the reasons that Stephenson was elevated to the Virginia Supreme Court in 1981. He served as a justice for 16 years before retiring in 1997 at the age of 75.

Justice Stephenson died Tuesday in Covington, Va. He was 89.

A native of Alleghany County, he had attended the public schools there and, following a year in the Army, entered W&L, receiving his B.A. in 1943 and his J.D. in 1947 from the School of Law.  Known as “Rocky,” Stephenson began in partnership with his father in Covington and served as commonwealth’s attorney for Alleghany County for eight years before returning to private practice. He was elected as a judge to the 25th Judicial Circuit of Virginia in 1973 and subsequently to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Among the decisions he wrote for the court were ones upholding the state’s cap on awards in medical malpractice cases and affirming the use of DNA evidence in the case of Timothy W. Spencer. The 1989 Spencer case became the first in which a man was sentenced to death based largely on DNA evidence. Known as “the Southside Strangler,” he had been convicted of raping and strangling four women over 11 weeks in 1987. There were no surviving victims, no fingerprints, no confession. Then DNA tests linked the crime scenes with Spencer. He was executed in April 1994.

In the Richmond Times-Dispatch story on Stephenson’s death, Justice Harry L. Carrico, a former chief justice, said: “He was a wonderful person, he was a wonderful judge, he was a highly ethical person and highly caring person and just an all-around wonderful human being.”

When Stephenson retired in 1997, he stayed on as a senior justice. His departure led to a deadlock in the General Assembly about his successor, who was ultimately appointed by then-Gov. George Allen. The seat was filled by Justice Cynthia Kinser, who is now the court’s chief justice.

A funeral will be held Friday in Covington. Survivors include Roscoe B. Stephenson III, a member of the W&L Law Class of 1981.