Father, son make up a judicious duo in courts

Father's advice to newly elected judge: treat everyone with respect

By Jane Glenn Cannon
The Oklahoman

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Maybe it was all that time he spent as a kid, sitting in the back of a courtroom watching his dad on the bench, but Jeff Virgin says he remembers always wanting to be a judge.

"A lot of people say I have a good judicial temperament, and I think I got that from my dad. He has a lot of patience, and I've seen how he takes command of a courtroom, and how he always treats people with respect," he said.

Jeff Virgin, 32, is the son of Norman attorney Blake Virgin, 59, who - for 30 years - has served as a municipal court judge, The Oklahoman reported. For 20 of those years he served Noble and Blanchard. Now he serves both Noble and Moore. He resigned in Blanchard after accepting the judgeship in Moore in 2000.

Jeff Virgin was elected in November to the newly created Judicial District 21 judge post, headquartered in Cleveland County. Judicial District 21 serves Cleveland, McClain and Garvin counties.

His swearing-in ceremony will be Jan. 8 in the ceremonial courtroom on the second floor of the Cleveland County Courthouse.

"I couldn't be prouder of him," Blake Virgin said of his son. "Being a municipal judge has certainly been rewarding for me. It's not a full-time job, but Municipal Court is the court most people go to. It's their introduction to the judicial system. I feel a big responsibility because of that to treat everyone fairly and with respect."

His son is a former prosecutor turned judge. Jeff Virgin began his law career as an intern in the Cleveland County district attorney's office.

Upon his graduation from the University of Oklahoma College of Law, Jeff Virgin became a full-time assistant district attorney under then-District Attorney Tim Kuykendall and later under District Attorney Greg Mashburn.

In 2010, Jeff Virgin was assigned to the McClain County district attorney's office, and managed that office until 2013 when he was appointed a special judge for McClain County.

"I obviously loved being a special judge, but being elected district judge gives me an opportunity to do more. I love the study of law, and have always loved serving people, so I think being a district judge is a perfect fit for me. I can serve people, and no doubt there will be lots of legal issues," Jeff Virgin said.

Blake Virgin has offered his son some advice for his new job.

"Treat everyone with respect and listen to them. As long as people feel like they've been heard, they go away happy, even if the outcome is not in their favor," Blake Virgin said.

Blake Virgin says he tries to keep things "light" in municipal court, with a majority of his cases having to do with traffic violations.

"But I have 'the face' for those first-time juvenile offenders that I use to try and steer them back into line. I have had parents ask me to use 'the face' on their kids, because they remember when they were the ones on the other side, and it helped them," he said.

"I've seen that face," Jeff Virgin said. "That's the 'Dad' face. I got that a lot growing up."

The most rewarding part of being a municipal judge, Blake Virgin said, "is when someone comes up to me and tells me how I turned their life around, maybe because I used 'the face.' That's pretty awesome."

Blake Virgin's daughter - and Jeff Virgin's sister - is state Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, who holds a law degree from OU, as does Jeff Virgin's wife, Rooney.

"We've got a lot of lawyers in the family," Blake Virgin said.

"And both Emily and Jeff were student equipment managers for the athletic department at OU. So I like to say both my children lettered in football."

Jeff and Rooney Virgin have a daughter, Annabelle, who is 6 months old.

Jeff Virgin says his dad has been a judge as long as he can remember.

"I remember always sitting in the back of the courtroom and watching him," he said.

Blake Virgin said he was 29 when he was appointed to a municipal judgeship.

"And I thought I knew everything. I soon learned I didn't."

He turned to his son and added a final piece of advice: "Remember that."

Published: Mon, Jan 05, 2015


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