Snow, Sinclair Elected to District Court Judgeships

Every partner at the now-shuttered Leesburg law firm of Biberaj, Snow & Sinclair has now won election to public office in the court system.

Buta Biberaj was the first to be elected to a spot in public office, taking the Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney race in November. She was

the only Democrat to unseat one of Loudoun’s otherwise Republican constitutional officers. According to their website, the law firm ceased operations at the end of 2019, just as Biberaj was taking office.

And on March 2, the House of Delegates selected both of her two former partners, Sinclair and Matthew Snow, to six-year terms on the District Court bench. Sinclair’s term begins April 1; Snow’s term begins May 1. They will fill the seats held by retiring judges Frank Buttery, who retired Feb. 1, and Dean Worcester, who retired March 1.

For Sinclair, it was not the first attempt at a seat on the bench. In 2018, she was one of two candidates recommended by the Loudoun Bar Association when funding was restored for a vacant spot on the 20th Circuit Court bench. The Loudoun NAACP also backed Sinclair to be Loudoun’s first black judge.

But while Loudoun’s legal community was making its evaluations, Fauquier County Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher already was under consideration for the post in Richmond with the backing of influential Republicans. Fisher was appointed—over protests from Loudoun’s state lawmakers—in January 2019.

Sinclair first sought appointment to the bench in 2012, with the retirement of the late District Court Judge Julia Cannon. Sinclair had also applied for the job in 2016, after the retirement of Judge Burke F. McCahill. Ultimately, Leesburg attorney Alex N. Levay was the favorite to take the seat. But instead of appointing a new judge, in 2017 the General Assembly stripped funding for the seat, leaving the bench short-handed.

When another seat on the Circuit Court opened up in 2019 with the retirement of Judge Jeffrey Parker, then-Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman was appointed to the seat, again with little consultation with local leaders. He chiefly presides over cases in Fauquier and Rappahannock counties, which are also part of the 20th Circuit.

In December, Snow was tapped to serve as Biberaj’s chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney, an office he will have to give up to step up to the bench. Snow had sought the Loudoun Bar’s endorsement for a Circuit Court judgeship in 2018, alongside Sinclair, but withdrew his name from consideration.

Sinclair said as Loudoun’s first-ever black judge, she will bring a new perspective.

“I think when judges ascend to the bench, you do take with you your life experience, because that kind of shapes your thinking,” Sinclair said. “So not only do you have to know the law and be well-versed in the law, and the policies and the procedures, but you bring with you your experience, your common sense. And my background and experience comes from a different place than some of my colleagues.”

She said that diversity of thought and background “also helps enhance the bench.”

Snow, for his part, said he will seek to make litigants feel heard.

“I know that through my years of practice, one of the frustrations that I have heard in the past … is whenever they have an experience with a particular judge, and they don’t feel like they got a chance to be heard, that really affects their confidence in the legal system,” Snow said. “They feel like they didn’t get a fair shake.” In other cases, however, even when the judge rules against them, “most of the time, they come out still somewhat satisfied with the process, because they felt heard.”

But that, he said, will also be a balancing act with Loudoun’s busy dockets—the court hears tens of thousands of cases a year.

As to why all three former partners at the same law firm all rose to public office at the same time, Sinclair said, “God has a purpose, and God doesn’t make mistakes, so the timing was just right, it was the way that God wanted it to happen.”

She said it also was the extension of things they’ve already done: “The reason why I was a partner with Ms. Biberaj and Mr. Snow was because we share a lot of similar backgrounds, experiences and thoughts. We have always ben public servants. We have always spent time serving the community and giving back to the community.”

Snow put it down in part to “coincidence and timing,” but added “I think it is also, in the end, a reflection of many years of hard work and dedicated service by each of us in our respective professional career paths that we’ve taken. It certainly was not planned to end up just this way.”

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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