All rise

"It has reminded me that we are a world of people not machines, numbers or stock markets," says Paul Tucker ('80), about his position as a juvenile and domestic relations judge in the 25th Judicial District of Virginia.

After earning his bachelor's in history and political science, Tucker worked as a convenience store clerk for a year before heading to Wake Forest University School of Law. He earned his law degree in May 1984, passed the bar, and began private practice in general law with Natkin, Heslep and Natkin in Lexington. From 1986 to early 1989, he was an associate with Ladenhiem and Campbell. He had a solo practice in 1989 before forming the partnership Trumbo and Tucker in Fincastle.

In July 1999, Tucker had the honor of being appointed a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge in the 25th Judicial District by the Virginia General Assembly. "Due to the uncertain nature of the selection process there is always an element of surprise," he says. "You hope and prepare for the best, but must be capable of dealing with the real prospects of not making it."

The 25th Judicial District covers the cities of Clifton Forge, Staunton and Lexington and Rockbridge County. Although he's generally in court from 9 a.m. to the early afternoon, his days are never the same. Tucker hears all cases involving minors, such as criminal and traffic matters, in addition to other family matters, such as custody, support, visitation, child abuse or neglect and criminal cases where the defendant and alleged victim are family or household members. Tucker also hears juvenile delinquency cases, cases involving minors who are accused of committing offenses that would be criminal if committed by an adult, and status offenses, which are acts that are only unlawful because they are committed by a minor.

"My duty as a judge is to 'call 'em like you see 'em,' or philosophically speaking, make common sense decisions based on the law and evidence," says Tucker.

With such serious issues being involved, Tucker's decisions can have a significant impact on a family. "It's a sobering job," he says. "Nothing is more important to a person than his or her child, and I directly affect that relationship. But, I love my position; it's a wonderful opportunity to perform a tremendous social good."

Tucker lives in Fincastle and has three children, Brandon, Andrew and Jill.

By Kara Carpenter ('00)

Publisher: Montpelier Magazine For Information Contact: What's In a Name?