AMERICAN INN OF COURT
A History of the I'Anson-Hoffman Inn of Court
No institution is complete in its maturity without a documented history as the Institutional memory. This document is derived from the records of the Inn, the memories of its founders, and previous histories written by Judge William T. Prince and Morton H. Clark, Esquire. The author of this document is indebted to their efforts and the offerings of numerous present and former members of the Inn.
The I'Anson - Hoffman American Inn of Court was established by charter on May 1, 1987, in Norfolk, Virginia, as part of a nation-wide movement to emulate the British Inns of Court, for the purpose of promoting the goals of excellence, civility, professionalism and ethics in the legal profession. The founding members, a distinguished group of judges, lawyers, law professors and law students, as well as the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William & Mary, were committed to the goals of the American Inn of Court movement, particularly as they related to law students and those new to the profession.The American Inns of Court Movement
The American Inns of Court concept was the product of a discussion in the late 1970's among the United States' members of the Anglo-American exchange of lawyers and judges, including United States Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit J. Clifford Wallace. The concept was based upon the admiration which members of the American legal profession held for the British Inns of Court.
The first Inn of Court was established in England in 1292 by King Edward I to provide housing for his barristers while they were trying cases in London. During the Middle Ages, the inns evolved into training centers for young lawyers. Today, there are four British Inns of Court: Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn. Each is organized and operated separately, with a coordinating council of the four Inns.
Chief Justice Burger invited Rex E. Lee (then Dean of the School of Law at Brigham Young University and later United States Solicitor General) and Dallin Oaks (then president of Brigham Young University and later Justice of the Utah Supreme Court) to test the idea.
At Lee's suggestion, United States District Court Judge A. Sherman Christensen, developed the idea into a feasible concept. The first American Inn of Court was founded in 1980 in Utah, and included law students from Brigham Young University. Within the next three years, additional American Inns formed in Utah, Mississippi, Hawaii, New York, and Washington, D.C.
In 1983, Chief Justice Burger created a committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States to explore whether the American Inn concept was of value to the administration of justice and, if so, whether there should be a national organization to promote, establish and assist American Inns, and promote the goals of legal excellence, civility, professionalism and ethics on a national level. The committee proposed the creation of the American Inns of Court Foundation, the Judicial Conference endorsed the concept, and in 1985 the American Inns of Court Foundation was formally organized, with the following goals:
· to unite a cross-section of the bench and bar into an educational forum for the promotion of excellence, professionalism and ethics in legal advocacy;
· to promote fellowship of the bar, the bench and the students of the law;
· to contribute to essential reforms and improvements in training and performance of legal advocates;
· to facilitate the transition of law students and young lawyers into the operation of our court system; and
· to preserve, foster and adapt for contemporary use in the United States the genius and strengths of the English Inns of Court and their "joy and zest in legal advocacy as a service worthy of constant effort and learning."The Vision
At the time of the organization of the American Inns of Court Foundation, Chief Justice Burger was serving in the honorary position of Chancellor of the College of William &- Mary. In a conversation with Dr. Paul Verkuil, then President of the College and a law school graduate himself, Chief Justice Burger conveyed the enthusiasm he had for the fledgling American Inn of Court movement, and for the restoration of the high ideals of the legal profession and its image to the general public. President Verkuil shared the Chief Justice's vision with Dean Timothy J. Sullivan, of the Marshall-Wythe School of Law and successor to President Verkuil as President of the College of William & Mary.
Knowing the value of prominent leadership in the creation of a new organization, Dean Sullivan enlisted Professor Walter L. Felton, Jr., of the School of Law, to approach his mentor, former United States Senator and law Dean, William B. Spong, Jr., for encouragement, ideas and eventual support for the formation of an Inn of Court. Senator Spong wisely suggested that Retired Chief Justice Lawrence W. I’Anson, of the Virginia Supreme Court, and Senior United States District Judge Walter E. Hoffman, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, be approached for assistance. All three men were enthusiastic about the concept, and Judge Hoffman enlisted William T. Prince, then a prominent Norfolk lawyer and former Virginia State Bar president, and later a United States Magistrate Judge, and Rebecca Beach Smith, then a United States Magistrate Judge, and later a United States District Judge, to be given the helm for the establishment of an Inn of Court to serve the Hampton Roads area.The Founders
On September 29, 1986, Dean Sullivan hosted a dinner at the Harbor Club, in Norfolk, where a presentation was made by Sherman L. Cohn, President of the American Inns of Court, concerning the purpose, structure and program of the American Inns of Court. Present at the meeting were Chief Justice I’Anson, Judge Hoffman, Judge Smith, and Mr. Prince.
Dean Sullivan committed the Marshall-Wythe School of Law to affiliation with an Inn of Court for the Peninsula and South Hampton Roads areas, and Chief Justice I’Anson l:\l1d Judge Hoffman accepted his request that they jointly assume leadership in the formation of an Inn for this area. Judge Smith and Mr. Prince collaborated with Chief Justice I’Anson and Judge Hoffman and formed the original steering committee, selected the charter membership, and met with national representatives of the Inns of Court movement for the organization and chartering of a local Inn.
The initial meeting of the Inn was held on March 24, 1987, in the United States Courthouse, in Norfolk, where a program of introduction was presented, charter members were inducted, and officers were elected. Mr. Prince was elected as the charter President, and Judge Smith as Chancellor. The membership consisted of federal and state judges, lawyers from Gloucester and Williamsburg to Virginia Beach, and law professors and law students from the Marshall-Wythe "School of Law. Planning was commenced for the initial program of meetings to commence in the fall. Professor Felton was instrumental in the establishment and implementation of the educational programs of the Inn, as well as encouraging and securing the attendance of the law student members.Chief Justice Lawrence W. I'Anson
Lawrence W. I'Anson, a native of Portsmouth, Virginia, graduated from the College of William & Mary, and took his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1931. Mr. I'Anson practiced law in Portsmouth until 1938, when he was elected Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney. Before he completed his first term in office, he was appointed in 1941 as a Judge of the Portsmouth Hustings Court (now Circuit Court). At the age of 34, he was one of the youngest men ever appointed a trial judge in Virginia. Judge I'Anson remained on the Hustings Court bench until 1958, when he was appointed to the Virginia Supreme Court.
During his service on the Supreme Court, Justice I'Anson distinguished himself as a leader in judicial reform. Serving on the Judicial Council of Virginia from 1948 to 1970, he was chairman of the committee which published the Virginia Handbook for Jurors. In 1968, he was named by Governor Mills E. Godwin as Chairman of the Virginia Court System Study Commission, whose recommendations in 1971 resulted in the complete reorganization of Virginia's courts into a unified state system, with full-time district court judges and uniform state-wide compensation for all judges. For his successful efforts in the reformation of the Virginia court system, Justice I'Anson was awarded the Lincoln Harley Award for judicial reform by the American Judicature Society in 1973.
Justice I'Anson became the 22nd Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia on October 1, 1974. During his tenure, Chief Justice I'Anson served as President of the National Center for State Courts, and Vice-Chairman of the Conference of Chief Justices, hosting the first national meeting of the conference in Williamsburg in 1971.
Chief Justice endeared himself to all who worked with and for him, through his personal warmth and good cheer, as well as the good word he always seemed to have for every lawyer who appeared before him.
Upon his retirement from the Supreme Court, Chief Justice I'Anson continued to serve as President of the Beazley Foundation, which he had led since 1948, serving his home community of Portsmouth. Chief Justice I'Anson died on December 17, 1990.Judge Walter E. Hoffman
Walter E. Hoffman, a native of Pennsylvania, graduated from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce of the University of Pennsylvania at age 19, attended the Marshall- Wythe School of Law, where he passed the Virginia bar examination after his first year. Mr. Hoffman subsequently graduated from the Washington & Lee University School of Law in 1931, a classmate of future Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Lewis F. Powell, and a contemporary of Chief Justice I'Anson.
Mr. Hoffman practiced law in Norfolk until 1954, when he was appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, as the resident judge in the Norfolk Division. The Norfolk and Newport News Divisions of the Eastern District were notorious for their backlog of cases, and Judge Hoffman set out to clear the docket, holding court on evenings, weekends and holidays, as necessary. In 1962, with things more under control, he seized upon the solution for keeping the docket current in the future, and the famed "Rocket Docket" of the Norfolk Division of the Eastern District was begun. Almost forty years later, the docket control rules remain a model for not only the federal court system but also for state courts as well.
Judge Hoffman eventually took senior status and remained as such until his death on November 21, 1996.
During his career on the federal bench, Judge Hoffman endeared himself to legions of attorneys and gained particular respect and national admiration for his expertise in admiralty law, to the extent that Norfolk became a preferred venue for difficult admiralty issues, as it remains today.
Among his most notable cases, Judge Hoffman presided over the Norfolk school desegregation case and the 1958 closing of the Norfolk public schools, as well as the criminal trials of Vice-President of the United States Spiro T. Agnew, United States District Judge Harry Claiborne of Nevada, and Governor Arch Moore of West Virginia.
Of all of his accomplishments, Judge Hoffman was most proud of the "Rocket Docket," and his receipt of the Edward J. Devitt Award for Distinguished Service to Justice in 1984. It is a fitting tribute to Judge Hoffman that the United States Courthouse in Norfolk bears his name.The I’Anson-Hoffman Inn of Court
The Inn was officially chartered as the I'Anson-Hoffman American Inn of Court XXVII on May 1, 1987, and held its first regular meeting on September 14, 1987, in the new Virginia Court of Appeals building in Norfolk, under William T. Prince as the Charter President. In the years following, the Inn met in several different venues in Norfolk and on: the Peninsula, rotating among numerous sites. In 1990, the Inn settled in the Virginia Club in Norfolk, where it remained until 1995, when the Inn moved to the Harbor Club, the current venue of most of its meetings.
Since the inception of the Inn, these distinguished lawyers and judges have served as Presidents of the I'Anson-Hoffinan Inn of Court:
|1987 -89 ||William T. Prince, Esq. |
|1989-91 ||Hon. Rebecca Beach Smith |
|1991-93 ||Hon. J. Warren Stephens |
|1993-95 ||John Y. Pearson, Esq. |
|1995-96 ||Hon. Robert G. Doumar |
|1996-98 ||Linda S. Laibstain, Esq. |
|1998-99 ||Morton H. Clark, Esq. |
|1999-2000 ||Guilford D. Ware, Esq. |
|2000-02||Hon. Raymond A. Jackson |
|2002-04||Hon. Wilford Taylor, Jr.|
|2004-06||John R. Fletcher, Esq.|
From the very earliest days of the I'Anson-Hoffman Inn, Professor Walter L. Felton, Jr. served as chief organizer, treasurer, institutional memory and cheerleader of the Inn. His commitment to the continued relevancy and success of the Inn, not only for its place in the Hampton Roads legal community, but especially for the student members from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law, has been crucial since its inception and continued to be so until he entered public service in the Office of the Attorney General and later in the Office of the Governor of Virginia. In 2002, Professor Felton was sworn in as a Judge of the Court of Appeals of Virginia.
Through Professor Felton's influence with the College of William & Mary, the annual highlight of each year has been the May meeting in Williamsburg, featuring dinner in the Great Hall of the Wren Building. Speakers have included legislators, the Attorney General of Virginia, a former Virginia Bar Association President and college President, the national president of the American Inns of Court, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, as well as distinguished lawyers in public service.
On several occasions over the years, September introductory meetings, purely social in nature, have been hosted at the homes of C. Flippo Hicks, a former master-member, in Gloucester County, Judge Rebecca Beach Smith in Deltaville, and Judge Rodham T. Delk, Jr., in Smithfield.
Of additional note, over the years several of the William & Mary law student members have rejoined the Inn as lawyer members after graduating from law school and obtaining employment in the Hampton Roads area.
Revised July, 2004
Judge Rodham T. Delk, Jr.