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VADA Awards

VADA Award for Excellence in Civil Litigation

Honorable R. Edwin Burnette, Jr., (Ret.)

The board of directors of the VADA is pleased to announce that this year’s Award for Excellence in Civil Ligation will be awarded to the Honorable R. Edwin Burnette, Jr., (Ret.) The award will be presented to Judge Burnette at the 2020 Annual Meeting at The Homestead on October 15.

Over the course of his 42-year career, Judge Burnette has distinguished himself as both a practicing attorney and as a judge on Virginia's 24th Judicial District and 24th Judicial Circuit. A longtime member of VADA until his appointment to the bench in 2001, Judge Burnette has served in numerous leadership roles with the Virginia State Bar, including in 1993-94 as its youngest elected President. Each year, the Virginia State Bar's Young Lawyers Conference presents in his honor the R. Edwin Burnette, Jr., Young Lawyer of the Year Award. Following his retirement from the bench in February 2020, Judge Burnette has joined the Liberty University School of Law as the School's first ever Jurist in Residence.

The VADA board of directors believes the Judge Burnette meets the high standards for receipt of the Excellence in Civil Litigation Award. He is widely admired for his exemplary conduct inside and outside of the courtroom.

Award Criteria

More than twenty years ago, the VADA Board of Directors instituted an award entitled "VADA Award for Excellence in Civil Litigation."

The Award honors a distinguished jurist, civil litigator, or other appropriate person who exhibits the following: 

1. The highest standards of ethics, demeanor and temperament; 
2. Exemplary conduct inside and outside the courtroom; 
3. Courtesy and fairness in dealing with others; 
4. Work of the highest quality; and 
5. Such other criteria as the Board may determine are appropriate, such as community involvement; judicial, bar-related and educational activities; and participation in activities that improve the civil justice system.

Phillip C. Stone - 1994
James W. Morris, III - 1995 

Chief Justice Harry L. Carrico - 1996 
The Hon. Albert V. Bryan, Jr. - 1997 
Ronald D. Hodges (posthumously) - 1998 
The Hon. Nicholas E. Persin - 1999 
John M. Oakey, Jr. - 2000 
Frank B. Miller, III - 2001 
Russell H. Roberts - 2002 
William B. Poff - 2003 
The Hon. Robert R. Merhige, Jr. - 2004 
The Hon. R. Terrence Ney - 2005 
Henry H. McVey III - 2006 
James Rudy Austin - 2007 
James E. Brydges, Jr. - 2008 
Colin J. S. Thomas, Jr. - 2009 
The Hon. Paul F. Sheridan (Ret.) - 2010 
John H. OBrion, Jr.- 2012 
George W. Wooten -2013 
James W. Jennings, Jr. - 2014
Frank N. Cowan - 2015
Mary M.H. "Molly" Priddy - 2016
M. Pierce Rucker II - 2017
Stephen A. Horvath - 2018
Walter H. Peake III - 2019

VADA - VTLA Civility Award

Irving M. Blank

This year marks the fifth year of the joint VADA-VTLA Civility and Professionalism Award, which is given by each association to a member of the other who exhibits the highest degree of civility and professionalism in dealing with litigation opponents.  This joint project is intended to nurture the spirit of civility in Virginia practice by recognizing the bar leaders who exemplify all that is best in the practice of law. This year, VADA will bestow its award on Irving M. Blank at its annual meeting October 15.

Irving Blank, “Irv”, has been trying cases since 1967. From 1967-1989, he was primarily a Defense attorney and was one of the early members of the VADA before moving to Plaintiff’s work. During his time in practice, he has covered a number of areas – Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Premises Liability, Professional Malpractice, Construction disputes, Domestic Law and Criminal Law. He has also collected a number of professional awards – he was selected to the 2011 class of Leaders in the Law (chosen Leader in the Law) and the 2018 class of Lawyers Hall of Fame; Super Lawyers 2006-2018; is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and became a Fellow of the Virginia Law Foundation to name only a few. He was President of the Virginia State Bar 2010-11, and President of the Virginia Law Foundation in 2016. He also teaches classes and is active with Pro Bono work. All this is balanced against his time actively practicing law in the courtroom. And while he is a zealous advocate for his client, he remains a courteous, conscientious professional. His nominator called him a consummate professional, both pleasant and reasonable to work with.

The VTLA honored VADA past-president Kate McCauley with this Award in March. 

Award Criteria

Beginning in 2015, the VADA and VTLA agreed to create an award which each year will recognize and honor a member of each organization for their civility and professionalism in the practice of law.

Both associations believe that their members have an obligation to be professional with clients, other parties and counsel, the courts and the public. This obligation includes civility, professional integrity, personal dignity, candor, diligence, respect, courtesy, and cooperation. Some go above and beyond obligation, and their conduct sets the standard.

The VADA honorees have been:

Rick Ladd - 2016

Steuart Thomas - 2017

Molly Priddy - 2018

Michael Harman - 2019
Kate McCauley - 2020

Past VTLA honorees have been:

Thomas E. Albro - 2016

John E. Lichtenstein - 2017

Thomas G. Smith - 2018

Stephanie E. Grana - 2019

Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys

1915 Huguenot Road, Ste 301

Richmond, VA, 23235


Executive Director: Sherma Mather

Director of Meetings: Amy Gilbody

Journal of Civil Litigation Managing Editor: Molly Terry

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