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Sun Gazette: Standing-Room Crowd Welcomes New Circuit Court Judge to Bench Print


Created:  Monday, June 11, 2012  8:18AM

There is a very tangible benefit to moving from attorney to judge, Dan Fiore II notes: "Finally - finally! - people are going to laugh at my jokes."

Fiore, a trial lawyer for more than three decades, on June 8 was formally invested as a judge of Virginia's 17th Judicial Circuit, which includes Arlington and the city of Falls Church. Elected by the General Assembly to an eight-year term, he will take the bench on July 1.

An overflow crowd of family, friends and the local legal community packed the ceremonial courtroom on the 11th floor of the Arlington County Justice Center for the hour-long ceremony. In just a few weeks, a similar investiture will be held for Louise DiMatteo, who also was elected a judge of the 17th Circuit.

Their arrival is sure to be a relief to Chief Judge William Newman Jr., who in recent years has gone from one of four judges on the circuit to the lone jurist, as his colleagues Benjamin Kendrick, James Almand and most recently Joanne Alper all retired without immediate replacements being named.

"Nobody is more pleased than I am," Newman told the assemblage.

Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), who shepherded the judicial nomination through the General Assembly, said Fiore had the traits of a good judge: "Courteous, wise, fair and impartial . . . [and] the courage of your convictions to do what is right."

And County Board member Chris Zimmerman, who has a longstanding friendship with Fiore, praise the new judge for "his incredible integrity and his sensitivity, his thoughtfulness."

"Those personal qualities are really important," Zimmerman said. "We have the right kind of person taking on this enormous responsibility."

In the community, Fiore has served as chairman of the Arlington Human Rights Commission and in a number of other post. He also has served as chairman of the Arlington County Bar Association and the Arlington County Bar Foundation. He also has served as an adjunct law professor at George Mason University.

Being on the bench will not be an entirely new experience for Fiore; over the past decade, he has served as a substitute judge on the General District Court. But he said he looks forward to the new experience at the circuit level.

"I can't tell you how proud I am to be a part of this court," he said. "I know that I have a tradition to carry on. It is an awesome responsibility, but I believe if I weren't up to it, I wouldn't be here."

On hand as Fiore was sworn in by Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson was Fiore's wife, Morgan, and their son, Gawan, who is headed to Stanford University in the fall.

In an effort to cut costs, state legislators have been paring back judgeships statewide. With Fiore sworn in and DiMatteo (currently a member of the staff of the county attorney) soon to follow, the question remains whether Arlington and Falls Church will get back the fourth Circuit Court judgeship they once had.

David Bell, who for more than three decades served as court clerk for the circuit, said he expected the fourth judgeship might ultimately be resurrected, since cases in the 17th Circuit are often more complex and time-consuming than those in other areas of the commonwealth.

"This is a very busy place," Bell said.