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
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
Beverly practiced law in North Carolina until 1960, when she
and her husband, Phil, also an attorney, moved to Jacksonville. …