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Hanover County will have a new face behind the bench in the General District Courtroom this July.
Hugh S. Campbell, 48, of Ashland-based Campbell & Campbell, P.C., will take over the vacancy left behind by Judge Peter Trible’s retirement.
While he looks forward to his life in public service, Campbell said closing the longtime Ashland practice in order to assume his new role has felt like “breaking up the family.”
“It was a difficult transition for me leaving here, because I really had a good practice going,” Campbell said, adding he’s been blessed with great staff. “It was difficult for me to break up the family, so to speak, that I consider my law practice to be.”
Campbell’s uncle, Leslie D. Campbell Jr., started practicing law in Ashland in the 1950s and is considered one of Hanover County’s first full-time attorneys. Campbell’s father of the same name joined the practice in 1961 and worked there alongside his brother until their retirement in the mid-2000s. Campbell has been at the practice since 1992.
“I was sort of raised in this particular building,” Campbell said.
Judges in Virginia are appointed by the state legislature. Del. Chris Peace (R-Hanover) had a hand in paving Campbell’s way to the bench.
“After numerous interviews and consideration of the Hanover Bar Association’s recommendation, Hugh was our delegation’s consensus pick,” Peace said via email.
“Hugh Campbell will be an excellent General District Court judge. He is properly skilled and maintains a demeanor required for such a position of authority.
“Further he is a family man and comes from a long tradition of Hanoverians committed to public service and justice,” Peace added. “I have always admired the Campbells and believe Hugh will make us all proud.”
Campbell will serve in Virginia’s 15th Judicial District, which includes the 10 counties of Hanover, Caroline, Spotsylvania, Stafford, King George, Westmoreland, Richmond, Northumberland, Lancaster and Essex and the City of Fredericksburg. While he could possibly sit in any of these jurisdictions’ courtrooms, Campbell said it’s “99 percent likely” he’ll be based in his native Hanover for the six-year term.
Campbell was born and raised on a farm in Beaverdam, near Patrick Henry’s “Scotchtown” in western Hanover County. He said he developed his love for the law from his father, who split time between practicing law and tending to the family farm.
“He enjoyed the farming aspect of life and teaching us about rural things he grew up exposed to,” Campbell said.
“He always told me I wasn’t going to be getting wealthy practicing law, but that I’d have a nice lifestyle if I worked hard at it,” Campbell added. “It was what he called ‘an honorable lifestyle.’”
Over the years, Campbell specialized in criminal defense and personal injury law. He said he never really had his sights set on becoming a judge, adding it came down to timing, for the most part.
“I was lucky enough that Judge Trible’s retirement came along when it did, and I had some support from the community,” he said.
Growing up, Campbell attended Hanover Academy, Liberty Middle School and Patrick Henry High School. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Virginia before graduating from the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond.
Campbell passed the state bar back in 1992 and said he couldn’t recall his first day in court. But he does remember a rather rude awakening.
“They don’t teach you the practical aspects of practicing law, and issuing subpoenas and getting the right things brought before the court,” Campbell said. “I remember early on, I bloodied my nose several times.”
“I think in any profession, you’re going to be intimidated by the process until you sort of figure it out and get comfortable with what you’re doing,” he added.
In preparation for taking the bench, Campbell recently completed his first week of judicial school and will attend another week in August. While these courses focus, in part, on “how to run the courtroom” as well as some backend tasks, Campbell said he still expects there to be a great deal to learn once his term begins.
“Preparing for it, there’s going to be a huge learning curve, period,” Campbell said.
Campbell said his best preparation has come in the field over the last two decades, working in multiple jurisdictions.
“The main thing that’s preparing me for this is just being around the General District Courts of Caroline, Hanover and Henrico, primarily, for the last 21 years,” he said, adding, “There is no sort of ‘one-size-fits-all’ to every court.”
July 1 will be Campbell’s first day as General District Court Judge. It’s a role that he’s not stepping into lightly.
“It’s something that I take very seriously, I intend to do it with distinction and I intend to bring honor to the court,” he said. “Hanover County is my home, it’s where I was raised, it’s been my entire professional career and I could not have any more loyalty to anything or any place.”
“I feel like I’m going to be sentry over the gate and I intend to do everything I can to uphold the traditions [of the court],” Campbell added.