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5 Things to Know About Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Here at FindLaw, we understand the pressures of being a legal professional - most of us are recovering lawyers - so we want to help by tossing you that preferred life preserver of the legal profession, the short list.

Though Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has been known as one of the more conservative appellate courts for years, the majority of the judges on the 15-member court were appointed by Democrats. Judge J. Harvie Wilkerson III, the lone remaining Reagan appointee, is not only a notable conservative on the court, he's also the longest-serving Fourth Circuit judge.

Here are five more things to know about Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III.

  1. I Heart New York? Despite having a name that just screams Vuh-gin-yuh, Judge Wilkinson was actually born in (gasp!) New York. But don’t worry; he was raised in Richmond, and returned to the University of Virginia for law school (J.D. 1972) after graduating from Yale with honors in 1967.
  2. Supreme Ambitions. After law school, Wilkinson clerked for Justice Lewis Powell, who was also a family friend.
  3. One-in-Four. Judge Wilkinson was the second of President Reagan’s four nominees to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. He served as chief judge of the court from 1996 until 2003.
  4. Judicial Restraint. Wilkinson thinks both liberals and conservatives need to reevaluate how they approach the law. In March, he wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “Restraint has much to commend it as a judicial value, not least of which is that it extends the hand of tolerance and respect to those whose views we may not share, but whose citizenship we do share and whose love of family, community and country burns no less brightly than our own.”
  5. Doctors Orders. President Bush interviewed Judge Wilkinson for a Supreme Court spot in 2005, but Wilkinson’s exercise regimen may have kept him away from First Street. The New York Times reported that Wilkinson told the president that he ran 3.5 miles each day, but didn’t do the cross-training exercises his doctor recommended. President Bush told the judge that he should follow doctor’s orders and do the cross-training. Now 67, it seems unlikely that Wilkinson will be appointed to the Court.

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