Judge's Retirement End of an Era Beverly Steps Down after 20 Years on Jacksonville Bench

Article excerpt

Attorneys Claudia D. Baker and Susan Slagle met under less than

friendly circumstances in the Jacksonville courtroom of Circuit

Judge Virginia Q. Beverly.

Who won the 1991 case is unimportant, the lawyers said. The

best thing to come out of that trial was a lasting friendship

they owe to the veteran judge.

"It's a credit to her that two lawyers who meet as adversaries

can forge a relationship," said Baker, a commercial litigator.

When Beverly, 70, announced her retirement -- mandatory by

state law at her age -- after two decades on the bench, the

foes-turned-friends planned a reception just like the woman they

admire: low-key and open to all.

A steady stream of attorneys, bailiffs, judges and clerks

dropped by a Duval County courtroom Monday to say goodbye to a

fixture of Jacksonville's legal system. Yesterday, her last day

on the job, she plowed through paperwork, cleaned out her office

and spent the afternoon in hearings.

"It's the end of an era," said Slagle, a Jacksonville lawyer

since 1978. "She was the one we all looked to. It was nice to

see her succeed."

Beverly was an attorney when few Jacksonville women were in the

profession, and her 1976 appointment to the circuit bench paved

the way for other women to follow her. She was the first woman

appointed to the 4th Judicial Circuit.

"It used to be, in the early days, that a young woman who

thought of going to law school would be run through my office in

one way or another," Beverly said. That doesn't happen often any

more because it's no longer a rarity for women to attend law

school or become judges.

"If anything, maybe I'm a transition person," she said.

Like all circuit judges, Beverly rotated between juvenile court

and criminal and civil cases. She especially enjoyed civil cases

because she learned from expert witnesses, including pulmonary

medicine experts who testified in several asbestos liability

cases.

Beverly presided over the 1978 case in which former

Jacksonville University basketball player Flenoil Crook was

convicted of shooting a former teammate. She also handled the

1977 trials of two men charged with kidnapping and killing a

furniture store owner and tossing his body off the Buckman

Bridge.

Beverly practiced law in North Carolina until 1960, when she

and her husband, Phil, also an attorney, moved to Jacksonville. …