Remembering Chief Justice Carrico

By Virginia Lawyers Weekly – 2/4/2013

For many in Virginia, he was the face of the Supreme Court of Virginia. For years, a generation of lawyers had known no other chief justice.

Former Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harry L. Carrico died Jan. 27 in Richmond. He was 96.

Justice Carrico was the longest serving justice and chief justice in the court’s history. He served 42 years on the court, 22 as chief justice.  Retiring in 2003, he continued to serve as a senior justice.

Justice Carrico “lived a life of public service,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell in a statement.

“When he stepped down after 42 years at the age of 86, it was reported that he continued to wake up at 4:15 a.m., bike six miles, and make it in to the office before 7:00 am, where he continued to serve as a senior justice.  This incredible dedication, and an energy and vigor for public service are attributes that all Virginians should strive to emulate,” McDonnell said.

After retirement from the court, Justice Carrico also served as a visiting professor of law and civic engagement at the University of Richmond law school.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli also noted Justice Carrico’s passing.  “Justice Carrico served on Virginia’s Supreme Court through tremendous changes, as Virginia grew into the modern state that it has become,” Cuccinelli said in a news release.

Speaker of the House William J. Howell said Justice Carrico served as a personal mentor when Howell first considered a legal career.  “He served during a time of rapid political, social and cultural change but his love of justice and the rule of law was unwavering,” Howell said.

Moving to have the House of Delegates adjourn in his memory on Jan. 28, Del. J. Randall Minchew, R-Loudoun, described Justice Carrico as “that great jurist, that consummate gentleman and that outstanding Virginian.”

Justice Carrico had a private law practice before assuming the circuit court bench in 1956 in a circuit that included Fairfax and Prince William Counties as well as Alexandria.  He was appointed to the Supreme Court of Virginia in 1961.  He assumed the position of chief justice – then selected by seniority – in 1981.

“Harry Carrico was, for a generation, the chief justice; he occupied the center chair so long that many lawyers were sworn in by him, and practiced law for a full twenty years with him still there, presiding over the court with politeness and civility to which we can aspire,” said Virginia Beach appellate lawyer L. Steven Emmert in a memorial.

Justice Carrico is survived by his wife of 18 years, Lynn Brackenridge of Richmond, a daughter from his first marriage, Lucretia A. Carrico, who serves as a general district judge in Petersburg, a sister, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

On his death, McDonnell ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff.  Justice Carrico’s remains lay in state in the rotunda of the state capitol on Jan. 30 and 31.