The Retirement of Judge Thomas D. Horneby Former Representative Frank R. Wolf
Posted on 2013-12-12
in the house of representatives
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Mr. WOLF. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize and honor Judge
Thomas D. Horne, an integral member of Loudoun County's justice system
for more than three decades, who retired at the beginning of this
Judge Horne graduated from Muhlenberg College in 1965 and went on to attend William and Mary Law School, where he earned his law degree in 1969. He began his career as a judge advocate for the Marines and in 1979, his love of the courtroom led him to become the county's first elected commonwealth's attorney. In 1982, he was appointed to the Loudoun Circuit Court and since then has heard some of Loudoun's most prominent cases, including the 2002 first-degree murder trial of Claire Schwartz, who was found guilty of killing her father, as well as the nation's first ``spam'' case involving email advertisements.
Although he is one Virginia's most respected circuit court judges and described by his colleagues a ``the epitome of fairness''--his leadership extends far beyond the courtroom. He helped create a bench book for judges in Virginia, which has become an indispensable resource for those involved in the legal profession. Additionally, he spearheaded the nation's first victim-witness program and started a week-long law camp mentoring teenagers interested in law.
Outside of the legal realm, Judge Horne serves his community in other ways. In the 1980's he played an important role in the development of youth soccer programs in Loudoun and later formed the Loudoun County Youth Lacrosse League.
I have had the privilege of knowing Tom for many years. I hope that he enjoys retirement with his wife, Patricia, and their children, Rob and Jennifer, and grandchildren, knowing that he has been a pillar of the Loudoun community for decades. I wish him all the best and thank him for his outstanding service, both inside and outside of the courtroom.
I submit the following Leesburg Today article on Judge Horne's remarkable accomplishments.
[From the Leesburg Today, Dec. 5, 2013] The Epitome of Fairness': Horne Retires, After Three Decades On Loudoun Bench (By Erika Jacobson Moore) Sitting in his office at the Loudoun County Courthouse, Judge Thomas D. Horne is reminiscing about his high school football coach in Baltimore. After being cut during tryouts for other sports, Horne saw a flyer about a meeting for football. So he went. There, coach George Young--a future New York Giants general manager and NFL vice president--told the group, ``I won't cut you. You'll cut yourself.'' Horne joined the football team and Young became a mentor to the teenager. Then, when it came time for Horne to consider college, Young stepped up.
``I didn't have any money, but every weekend he took me to see schools,'' Horne remembered. That was when Horne first learned anything about Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. ``I didn't know what it was. I thought it must have been in Germany somewhere. But he said, `This is the school for you.' So I went.'' It was his time at Muhlenberg that put Horne on the path that eventually led him to Loudoun, where he spent more than three decades as a cornerstone in the county's legal system.
``The point is: you can make a difference in someone else's life. And you should,'' he said.
It is with that philosophy that Horne has approached his life and more than 30 years on the bench in Loudoun's courtrooms. This week marks the first time since the late 1970s that Horne is not a formal part of [[Page E1858]] Loudoun's legal landscape. Horne retired from the bench Dec. 1, a result of the Virginia requirement that judges retire when they reach age 70. He plans to continue on a part-time basis after the New Year until the General Assembly appoints his replacement.
``I try to set an attitude in the courtroom that respects everybody,'' he said. ``You have to make people understand that you are listening. That is sometimes all people want.'' Known for often taking cases ``under advisement'' before issuing an opinion or ruling, Horne said that is intentional--designed to give him time to really examine the arguments and consider both sides.
``You have to be able to look at things objectively . . . people can disagree with whether you came up with the right or wrong answer, that's one of the great things about this system. But you have to take the time,'' he said, adding with a laugh, ``Of course, I always think I came up with the right answer.'' Horne's strides to ensure fairness and compassion were always present in his courtroom, according to those who have watched his career. Leesburg attorney Rhonda Paice, who credits Horne with her decision to become a lawyer, said Horne is ``the epitome of everything I thought was right with that [legal] profession.'' In high school, Paice shadowed Horne when he was an assistant commonwealth's attorney and then worked as his courtroom clerk the summer after she graduated from college in 1983.
``He was an extremely skilled trial attorney,'' she recalled. ``He was very polished in the courtroom. But he never really took advantage.
``Everything he did as a prosecutor it was really him thinking, is this furthering the ends of justice? He was just really advanced at walking the line between doing his job as a prosecutor, but doing it in the right circumstances and giving people a break when they needed it.'' Bill Mims, who was elected to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court of Virginia in 2010, practiced law in front of Horne when he was an attorney in Loudoun, and echoed those sentiments. In an email, Mims harkened back to the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who said, ``Justice is fairness.'' ``Judge Horne is the epitome of fairness,'' Mims wrote. ``He always applies the law faithfully, but also with equity. A judge can receive no higher praise.'' Clerk of the Circuit Court Gary Clemens first met Horne in the early 1990s, when he was a witness in a domestic case. ``Even at that point I was very impressed with his demeanor, his compassion and actual interest in the people who were before him with a court proceeding,'' Clemens said. When Clemens became an investigator with the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office a few years later, he began spending more time in Horne's courtroom.
``You could tell he had respect for everyone who appeared before him, even the criminal defendants,'' he said. ``He ensured those rights were upheld. You could tell that with the way he was talking and how he treated them he wasn't really judging them, he was just upholding the law and applying the law.'' The Loudoun Circuit Court has been stretched this year with Horne and Judge Burke F. McCahill picking up additional cases after the General Assembly failed to appoint a replacement for Judge James Chamblin, who retired in April. Judge Stephen E. Sincavage was appointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell this summer, but must be confirmed by the state legislature in the upcoming session.
Even with the additional work in his final year, a week before his retirement Horne said he was in position to have everything on his docket completed before he left.
That comes as no surprise to the people who know him best, many who touted his work ethic on the bench. Clemens says there are many nights when Horne would be the last one working in the courthouse, ``sometimes as late as 8 p.m. and I would go down the hall and his light is on and he is in there.
``He just has that commitment to the profession,'' Clemens said. ``Most importantly it was his commitment to the people involved. These were people with a very important issue in their lives and he realized that. So he was willing to work very late at night or even come in on the weekends.'' After graduating from Muhlenberg in 1965, Horne went to the College of William and Mary, earning his law degree in 1969 and then serving as a judge advocate in the Marines. Eventually, Horne and his family moved to Leesburg.
``At the start of my career, it was a completely different place,'' he said, recalling his practice was set up in a building with doctors' offices and he ``always had pregnant women and people with eye problems dropping in accidentally.'' Horne served as an assistant commonwealth's attorney in the 1970s--it was a part-time position so he kept his private practice as well.
``You were on a first-name basis with everyone,'' he said. ``But in 1972, Leesburg was still a fairly closed society. The newspaper was still really a society column, about who was vacationing . . . and I'm just a guy who moved here from Reston with my family.'' In 1979, he campaigned to be the county's first elected commonwealth's attorney. Horne said he felt drawn to public service. ``I love the courtroom. I love the challenge of the courtroom,'' he said.
Former Clerk of the Court Fred Howard first got to know Horne during that 1979 campaign, and he recalls Horne's commitment coming through as he campaigned. ``He walked all the way across Loudoun County,'' Howard said. ``He would stop and do campaign stops along the way, but he walked the entire county. I even wrote a song for his campaign . . . he walked `from the hills of Northern Loudoun to the plains of Sterling Park'.'' After Horne was elected Commonwealth's Attorney, Howard said he always was struck by how dedicated to the legal process he was, with one case coming to mind immediately. A man had been charged with breaking and entering, but said he was innocent because he had been at McDonald's at the time of the crime--even going so far as to say what he ate. Horne went back and checked the man's alibi, finding out that the day of the crime was the only day that restaurant had ever been closed.
``He was always very thorough,'' Howard recalled. ``The look on that boy's face was priceless.'' Since being appointed to the Loudoun Circuit Court in 1982, Horne has presided over some of Loudoun's most well known cases--from one of the earliest ``shaken baby'' manslaughter cases in 1995, which ended in a mistrial and resulted in a guilty plea to a child abuse charge, to the 2002 first-degree murder trial of Clara Schwartz, who was found guilty of killing her father and luring two men into the plot.
He also heard the first SPAM case in the country, where he sentenced a North Carolina man to prison for flooding AOL accounts with thousands of bulk email advertisements. The case was tried in Loudoun because AOL is located in the county. The Virginia Supreme Court later deemed the anti-spam statute in the Virginia State Code unconstitutional, something Horne had called into question when imposing his sentence.
There was the 1999 case where the ability of the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority, which is made up of representatives of Maryland, Virginia and DC, to condemn land in Virginia was challenged. ``That was interesting,'' Horne said, ``because it involved the Compact Clause of the Constitution.'' The Compact Clause states that without the consent of Congress no state can enter into an agreement or compact with another state.
``Whoever thought I would be hearing a case like that here in Loudoun County?'' Horne said with a smile.
And then, of course, for years, Horne has heard land use case after land use case as Loudoun's development ramped up. ``In the early 2000s there was always some sort of land use case on the docket,'' he said. And many of them brought up complicated legal questions, and involved multiple plaintiffs.
He handled legal challenges that resulted from a large- scale Board of Supervisors-initiated downzoning. ``You're working on rezonings with 200 plaintiffs and all these lawyers at the top of their game and it's just you,'' Horne said, acknowledging he appreciates ``good lawyering'' in his courtroom.
Domestic relations cases were always a staple of Horne's docket, including divorce and child custody cases. In those, he often got the ``greatest satisfaction'' because ``in some of these cases the parents are just litigating constantly.'' ``It's when I hear from one of those kids and they say they have bonded again with both parents that I get such a sense of satisfaction,'' he said, recalling one case in particular, in which a wife did not want her husband to have any contact with their children. The father was going overseas to Iraq and ``I was able to create a moment'' for the father and his children, Horne recalled. ``He ended up going over there and he was killed. And that was the last moment they had together.'' Horne's influence in the courtroom stretches beyond Leesburg, as well. He was an integral part of the effort to create the bench book for judges in the commonwealth. The book serves as a reference for judges, attorneys and other members of the legal profession.
He also worked on the judicial boundary realignment that benchmarks how many judges are needed in Virginia, and in specific localities, based on the number of case hours worked, the number of cases and how many judges are needed to handle the total. The document easily makes the case, Horne said, for the need to fill his position quickly, and to add a fourth judge in the circuit court in Loudoun.
Horne recalled how he recently had someone tell him they had never seen him get upset until he had to tell someone that he could not hear their case. ``We just don't have the manpower,'' he said of Loudoun's Circuit Court.
The ability to make a difference also drove Horne's work outside the courtroom.
As a prosecutor he helped start the county's victim-witness program, the first of its kind in the nation. ``You are trying to bring [victims] a sense of closure. That is really what this is all about; you're trying to reach that closure for people,'' he said.
More than a dozen years ago, he started Law Camp for high school students in the 20th Judicial Circuit, which brings lawyers together to train students to conduct moot court trials, give speeches and hear from guest speakers. Paice recalled being called into Horne's office with a couple other attorneys.
He said, I have this idea and I want to do this camp, a sleepover that will last a week, and we'll have lawyers who will mentor [[Page E1859]] [teenagers] and then Friday they will try a case,'' Paice said. ``We all sort of looked at each other like, you want to what now? He said he thought it was a worthwhile project for the Loudoun Bar. He thought the legal profession gets a bad rap, and it can be hard for kids to see how much good lawyers can do. He said, `I think that is a really good program to showcase the things that lawyers do in the community.' '' Ian Duggan, a Loudoun Valley High School graduate, participated in law camp in 2002. Now a JAG serving in Turkey, he credits his interest in law directly to his interactions with Horne. Duggan first met Horne in the eighth grade, when Horne was coaching him in lacrosse and ``knew [Horne] had a passion for the law.'' Then when he got into high school and participated in law camp, it further spurred his interest in the legal profession.
``Looking at him as a lawyer, he is a good example of what you want to be,'' Duggan said in a phone interview from Turkey. ``I saw the way people respected him. He did a good job of bringing a lot of people from the Bar out and supporting the effort. Not many people could do that.'' Horne, along with McCahill, also presided over Loudoun's Drug Court until the Board of Supervisors cut its funding last year. A common target for budget cuts before it was eliminated in 2012, Horne often spoke passionately about the program and the impact it can have, telling supervisors in 2009 that he would ``rather take home hours of homework'' than see the program cut.
He calls his work for the community ``an extension of being a judge.'' ``I tell the new judges--that is my advice--don't go and hide. Don't sit up on high. Be out in the community; get out with people. Yes, you have your judicial ethics, and you don't talk about your cases, but you need to talk with people, and know them and understand them. You need to understand people,'' he said.
And Horne's influence on Loudoun's community stretches far beyond the legal system. In the early 1980s, he helped youth soccer form in the county, and at the end of that decade he formed the Loudoun County Youth Lacrosse League. The sport was one of his passions growing up, and one he passed on to his son, Rob.
``I distinctly remember our first catch, I had my baseball mitt and then we would trade off [with the lacrosse stick],'' Rob Horne said. ``I really took to it very quickly. I think he saw how passionate I was about the sport, and he wanted to provide me with an outlet . . . and in 1989 he founded lacrosse in the county.'' Rob Horne said his father is his hero, in no small part because of his passion for his community and his ability to be just as passionate about his family. Growing up the son of a judge, Rob Horne always faced questions about a perceived strict household.
``[My friends] thought that things were incredibly strict and heavy handed in our house. They were not,'' he said. ``My father had an amazing ability to leave the office, the courthouse, behind. He never carried any of that baggage home.'' In addition to his dedication to youth sports, Horne is a former Boy Scouts cub master, Loudoun County High School PTA president and the first chairman of Loudoun County High School's all-night, drug-free graduation organizing committee.
``He has this selfless approach that he has taken throughout his adult life in all facets of our community,'' the younger Horne, now a teacher at Middleburg Academy, said. ``It is this inexhaustible energy that he has. That is something that I have really tried to draw from him. When you undertake an endeavor, you really see it through. Be passionate about what it is that you do, either professionally or in some extracurricular activity.'' Beyond the tangible work Horne does in Loudoun that will be absent with his retirement, it is the intangible that will be impossible to replace.
``I have dreaded 2013 for so long,'' Paice said. ``I have always had a feeling that as long as he was in that courthouse justice was going to be done, whether it was in front of him or not. Divorce, criminal, land use, he was going to be there to be sure that justice was done. And he is not going to be there. It is totally an end of an era for this community.'' Duggan, who also worked for him as a law clerk one summer, said one of the things Horne worked to instill in him was the importance of people--something he tries to remember every day he works as an attorney. Duggan said he has an ``indelible mark'' on him of Horne placing his hands on his shoulders and telling him: ``The law programs, the buildings they are all great, but at the end of the day it is the people that really make the system work . . . it doesn't matter if you don't have the right people.'' ____________________