A Guide to the Clerk's Correspondence and other Records, 1918-2006 Clerk's Correspondence and other Records 00028513

A Guide to the Clerk's Correspondence and other Records, 1918-2006

A Collection in the
Supreme Court of Virginia Archives, Virginia State Law Library
Accession Number 00028513


Virginia State Law Library, Supreme Court of Virginia Archives

Virginia State Law Library
Supreme Court of Virginia
100 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
URL: http://www.courts.state.va.us/courtadmin/library/home.html
Email: LawLibrary@vacourts.gov
Phone: (804) 786-2075

© 2011 By The Virginia State Law Library. All rights reserved.

Processed by: Catherine G. OBrion

Supreme Court of Virginia Archives, Virginia State Law Library
Accession Number
Clerk's Correspondence and other Records, 1918-2006
Physical Characteristics
5.8 cu. ft. (13 boxes)
Virginia. Supreme Court. Office of the Clerk.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

Because the library is not open to the general public, researchers should contact the library to arrange access to the collection.

Preferred Citation

Clerk's Correspondence and other Records, 1918-2006, Accession #00028513, Supreme Court of Virginia Archives, Virginia State Law Library, Richmond.

Acquisition Information

These records were transferred from the Clerk's office to the State Law Library in 2006.

Portions of the collection were found in other files after the collection was initially processed and interfiled or added in 2012 and 2013.

Historical Information

The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia was created by an act of the new General Assembly in 1779. Its jurisdiction was primarily appellate, and its members were elected by the legislature. The Constitution of 1870 required that annual sessions be held away from Richmond in the localities of Wytheville, Staunton, and Winchester. This mandate from the days of horse and buggy travel continued into the twentieth century, with sessions being held in Staunton as late as September, 1970.

By Constitutional amendment in 1928, the number of justices was increased from five to seven and the title of the presiding officer of the Court was changed from President to Chief Justice. At the same time, the amendment significantly increased the power given the Supreme Court by permitting the Court to prescribe forms and to regulate the practice of Virginia's courts. The Constitution of 1971 changed the name of the Court to its present title of Supreme Court of Virginia.

Although the Supreme Court of Virginia possesses both original and appellate jurisdiction, its primary function is to review decisions of lower courts, including the Court of Appeals, from which appeals have been allowed. Virginia does not allow an appeal to the Supreme Court as a matter of right except in cases involving the State Corporation Commission, certain disciplinary actions against an attorney, and review of the death penalty.

The Court's original jurisdiction is limited to cases of habeas corpus (ordering one holding custody to produce the detained person before the Court for the purpose of determining whether such custody is proper), mandamus (ordering the holder of an office to perform his duty), prohibition (ordering a public official to stop an action), and actual innocence (based on biological testing). The Supreme Court also has original jurisdiction in matters filed by the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission relating to judicial censure and retirement, and removal of judges.

The Supreme Court of Virginia Clerk's Office receives, processes, and maintains permanent records of all appeals and other official documents filed with the Court. The Clerk also maintains records of qualified attorneys and other administrative records.

Maury B. Watts was appointed Clerk in 1933 and served until his death in 1952. Howard G. Turner served from 1952 to 1977, Allen L. Lucy from 1977 to 1984, and David B. Beach from 1984 to 2003. Patricia Harrington was appointed in 2003.

The Special Court of Appeals was established by the General Assembly to relieve congestion of the high court docket by adjudicating cases assigned to it by the state Supreme Court. It met from 1924 to 1928.

The Judicial Council was established by the General Assembly in 1928. It was relatively inactive between 1936 and 1947, when Chief Justice Hudgins revitalized it.

Scope and Content

The collection contains correspondence files of the Office of the Clerk, Supreme Court of Virginia, documenting the Clerk's role in managing the records of the Court, maintaining communication with justices in their offices across the state, and managing administrative issues, especially during the period 1933 to 1952. The collection also contains records documenting the ceremonial history of the court.


The collection is organized into the following series: Special Court of Appeals records, 1924-1928; Judicial Council correspondence, 1930-1935; 1946; clerk's correspondence with justices, 1917-2005; clerk's general correspondence, 1929-1981; subject files documenting court ceremonies (investitutures, portrait presentations, memorials), anniversaries, and building dedications, 1925-2006; justices' speeches, 1931-1975; court publications, 1983; clippings, 1972; and miscellaneous records, 1936-2005.

Index Terms

Contents List

Special Court of Appeals records, 1924-1928
Box-folder: 1-1 to 1-4
4 folders

Special Court of Appeals records contain correspondence, 1924-1928; recommendations and endorsements, 1924; a draft order designating the first session of the court, 1924; and argument dockets, 1926-1927.

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Judicial Council correspondence, 1930-1935; 1946
Box-folder: 1-5 and 1-6
2 folders

Judicial Council correspondence contains correspondence of Chief Justice Prentis, President of the Judicial Council and M.B. Watts, Clerk of the Supreme Court and Secretary of the Judicial Council, 1930-1935; 1946.

These letters document the organization and administration of the Judicial Council and the Council's work in seeking recommendations from lawyers and judges for changes to statues regulating the practice of law in Virginia. Correspondents include individuals invited to join the Council, representatives of Judicial Councils from other states, and Virginia attorneys and judges proposing changes in laws. The correspondence includes an exchange between Herbert G. Cochran, Norfolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge, and Chief Justice Prentis, 1931, regarding a request for the Council's help with the Virginia State Bar Association's Committee on Organization of the Bar; and a letter from Chief Justice Campbell to Governor Peery, 1935, requesting re-appropriation for the Council in the Governor's budget for 1936.


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Clerk's correspondence with justices, 1918-2005
Box-folder: 1-7 to 5-6
6.5 boxes

Correspondence with justices pertains mostly to day-to-day administrative issues, suggestions for editing and copy-editing opinions, and management of court documents. Some letters from justices to the Clerk include rationales for decisions or opinions, references to court policies, concerns about declining health, and personal matters. The largest correspondence files in the collection contain correspondence between the Clerk and Chief Justice Holt, 1928-1947; Chief Justice Edward Hudgins, 1930-1958; Justice Gregory, 1933-1951; and Justice C. Vernon Spratley, 1936-1977.


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Clerk's general correspondence, 1929-1981
Box: 5-7 to 8-3 and 13-1 to 13-8
3.0 boxes

Clerk's general correspondence, 1926-1989, contains administrative correspondence, 1925-1989; correspondence regarding court anniversaries, 1979-1980; regarding portraits, 1926-1978, and integration of the Virginia State Bar, 1938-1948.

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Subject files: investitures, 1965-2005
Box: 8-4 to 9-7
25 folders

This series contains subject files documenting swearing-in ceremonies and investitures. It contains invitations, programs, oaths of office, transcripts of ceremonies, speeches and remarks, and sometimes seating charts and ceremony planning notes.


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Subject files: portrait presentations and memorials, 1925-2005
Box-folder: 9-8 to 11-8

This series contains materials documenting portrait presentations and memorial ceremonies honoring justices and other officers of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The files contain invitations, programs, transcripts of ceremonies, including remarks; printed memorials, resolutions of appreciation (legislative and judicial), and in some cases planning notes, seating charts, and newspaper clippings.


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Subject files: court anniversaries and building dedications, 1941-1943; 1979-2006
Box: 11-11 to 12-1
7 folders

This series contains programs, speeches, transcripts, and correspondence documenting celebrations of court anniversaries and building dedications.


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Subject files: court admission ceremonies, 1977-1978; 1980-1983
Box-folder: 12-2
1 folder

This series contains programs from admission ceremonies, held at the Hotel John Marshall in Richmond, for attorneys at law qualifying to practice in the Supreme Court of Virginia and all courts in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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Justices' speeches, 1931-1975
Box: 12-3
1 folder

Speeches honoring individuals or explaining the functions of the Court.


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Court publications, 1983
Box: 12-4
9 pamphlets.

Informational pamphlets published by the Supreme Court of Virginia: Virginia Courts in Brief, and the Supreme Court of Virginia.

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Clippings, 1972; undated
Box: 12-5
1 folder

Clippings about the closing of the Supreme Court of Appeals in Staunton in 1972; and photographs of the Judicial Conference, undated, published in the Virginia Bar News.

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Miscellaneous records, 1936-2005.
Box: 12-6 to 12-9
6 folders

This series contains court orders, architectural plans, and memos.

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Significant Persons Associated With the Collection

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