An Interview with Hon. Virginia George

The Honorable Virginia M. George was appointed to the bench in December 2017 by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. She was sworn-in on January 29, 2018. Judge George is currently located at the George D. Carroll Courthouse in Richmond, California.

Judge George is the daughter of two educators and was raised with five siblings here in the Bay Area. She is a classically-trained pianist and has been playing the piano since the age of four. Judge George’s childhood included many hours of piano practice and performances, but was also highlighted by spirited discussions and debates with her siblings and parents. Judge George entered adulthood appreciating that a multitude of positions and opinions can surround any given issue and she had also learned to become unafraid to advocate for her own. She very seriously considered studying music performance as an undergraduate in order to pursue a career as a professional musician. Playing at bars and nightclubs assisted her in paying for college and law school, but her lifelong interest in history, political science and journalism led her to graduate from UC Davis with a major in Political Science/Public Service and a minor in English.

Judge George entered the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1984. After graduating from law school, she began working at the District Attorney’s Office in Contra Costa County and became a Deputy District Attorney in 1986. During her thirteen years with the District Attorney’s Office, Judge George prosecuted misdemeanors and served on a multitude of felony assignments, but her primary assignment was sexual assault jury trials. These demanding prosecutions included assaults of children. She took one hundred and sixty jury trials to verdict before leaving the District Attorney’s Office.

In 1999, she began a solo practice focusing on guardianships, conservatorships and estate planning.

Her growing expertise in probate law led to a 2005 offer to assume a full-time professorship at the John F. Kennedy University (JFK) College of Law in order to launch and then lead an Elder Law Clinic (“ELC”). This grant-funded non-profit clinic was the first of its kind in the Bay Area and one of the first in the state. The ELC team provided pro bono representation to seniors over age sixty. Services focused on elders who were the victims of financial abuse, trusts contests, and conservatorships.

JFK law students working in the ELC had the opportunity to become certified to appear in court alongside supervising attorneys. Upon its opening, the ELC was immediately flooded with applications. Interest and need were so high, services could only be extended to Contra Costa, Alameda and Solano residents. The ELC team collaborated with many local non-profit agencies to provide a full array of services. ELC staff also routinely made educational presentations to Bay Area community agencies and service groups.

Judge George left JFK and the Clinic to take the bench as a probate commissioner. She was the primary probate court bench officer in Contra Costa County from February of 2010 to April of 2011. At the conclusion of this assignment, she and several colleagues formed a small probate-focused practice in Walnut Creek. Her individual practice centered on probate, probate-centered mediation and juvenile court mediation before her appointment to the bench in 2017. Judge George also spent time as a member of the Alternate Dispute Resolution Board of Directors and the Chair of the Estate Planning and Probate Section of the Contra Costa Bar Association.

Having held such a diversity of positions in both private and public settings, including over a year as a probate court bench officer, Judge George is well prepared to smoothly transition into any courtroom assignment. She has worked with a very broad spectrum of clients, public and non-profit agencies, community organizations and professional groups. Judge George has enjoyed developing the knowledge and skills needed to work within different areas of law through her career, and she looks forward to working with a wide variety of litigants and attorneys as a judicial officer. She is currently presiding over the fast-paced arraignment department in Richmond, but her duties also include domestic violence and civil harassment restraining order hearings.

Judge George greatly appreciates attorneys being on time and prepared. She believes litigants and the court benefit from attorneys entering courtrooms anticipating bench officer questions and proactively prepared with answers. It is her expectation that attorneys remain civil throughout their time together in her courtroom regardless of what is at stake for them and their clients.

When not on the bench, she finds herself increasingly busy with her high school aged child’s sports and related activities. Judge George continues to enjoy playing piano in her free time.