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BOWLING GREEN—During the swearing in ceremony for Judge Patricia Kelly on Friday, Chief Judge David H. Beck of the Spotsylvania Circuit Court said, “I’m sure she will serve with diligence, distinction and honor.”
Close to 20 active and retired judges from across the 10-county 15th Judicial Circuit, which includes Caroline, Spotsylvania and Hanover counties and Fredericksburg, filled the front of the Caroline General District Courthouse. The courtroom was packed with friends, family and guests, including Virginia Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, as the judges—all wearing black robes— entered the courtroom.
The Virginia General Assembly established the new seat in the 15th Judicial Circuit earlier this year because the caseload per judge in the district was over 40 percent higher than the state average.
“It’s only because of the labors of Sen. McDougle and other members of the General Assembly that we have a ninth seat now being filled by Patricia Kelly,” Beck told the gathering. “The legislators of the General Assembly made this possible.”
McDougle remarked that a judge “makes sure a community is safe by hearing criminal cases.” He also noted that for most citizens, their contact with the judicial system affects their opinion of the “entire system of government.”
The senator, also a lawyer, told the gathering that he knew Kelly when she was a lawyer and later as a judge in Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. She also served as a judge in Spotsylvania Circuit Court.
“I have real confidence in her and what she will do on the bench,” McDougle said.
Retired Judge J. Peyton Farmer called Kelly, a Caroline resident, to the front of the courtroom, along with her parents, Alda Kelly and Cyril Kelly. She raised her right hand, and Farmer read the oath, which said, in part, that she must uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Virginia Constitution.
The General Assembly appoints and reappoints judges to eight-year terms, and Kelly’s term will end June 30, 2021. She is a Caroline resident.
Kelly’s husband, Cary Bowen, a Richmond and Fredericksburg attorney, helped her put on her robe. Then, Kelly climbed some steps and took a seat at the bench and recalled her first day on the job as a lawyer. A seasoned lawyer in the firm had told her, “Always take time to read the law, no matter how many times you’ve dealt with a statute.” She has tried to follow that advice, along with “always” making “a strong effort to listen carefully to clients.”
Looking at her father in the audience, she said he often told her, “If you’re doing a job, do it right.” He also told her a key to success is being well-organized.
She thanked a long list of those in the audience, including Major Scott Moser of the Caroline Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Tony Lippa.
She will divide her time between Hanover Circuit Court and Caroline Circuit Court.
After the ceremony, her mother said, “I feel very proud of her. She’s come a long way.”
Her father said, “When she was a teen, I used to give her lectures and say, ‘If you keep doing the same thing you’re doing now, you’re going to end up in trouble.’ I think I scared her a little,” he said, smiling.
Judge Laura Dascher of Bath County attended Kelly’s ceremony. She trained with Kelly as a judge for three weeks at the Virginia Supreme Court when they first became judges. She said of Kelly, “She’s got the intelligence, the presence of mind and the ability to focus in the courtroom.”