Robinson remembered for fairness, compassion on the bench

Page News and Courier

LURAY ― A longtime Page County judge will be remembered by his friends and peers as being “compassionate and brilliant” ― and perhaps above all, “fair.”

“Judge Robinson was exceptionally fair,” remembered Luray attorney George Shanks. “He was a towering intellect, and Page County was fortunate to have his presence here and on the bench. We are not likely to see anyone of his stature in the future.”

Joshua R. Robinson, a retired Chief Judge of Virginia's 26th Judicial Circuit, died on Monday, April 3. He was 93.

“He was always very gracious and very fair to all the people that came before him,” said Page County Commonwealth's Attorney Ken Alger. “He was a consummate professional.”

Born in Luray on June 3, 1923, Robinson was the oldest son of the late Henry and Ada Robinson, who immigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania in the early 1900s, according to Robinson's obituary.

In 1940, Robinson graduated as valedictorian from Luray High School before earning a bachelor's degree in 1943 from U.Va. in Charlottesville. After serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II in the Pacific Theater, he earned a degree from the U.Va. School of Law in 1948, graduating with honors including being elected to the Order of the Coif and to the Editorial Board of the Virginia Law Review.

While in law school, he married his wife of 70 years, Estelle Good Robinson, who survives. He is also survived by two children, three grandchildren, a great-grandson and a sister.

In 1949, Robinson opened a law practice in Luray which he continued until his appointment as a Page County Circuit Court Judge in 1972. In 1989, Robinson was appointed as chief judge of the 26th judicial circuit.

"I'm honored to be chosen as chief judge, and I will try to serve the people to the best of my ability and bring efficient administration of justice to the circuit," Robinson said at the time during a gathering in his chamber, according to the Aug. 3, 1989 issue of the Page News.

During that appointment, remembered Luray attorney Robert Janney, former president of the Page Valley Bank and Luray attorney Jack Swetnam traveled to Richmond to speak to the General Assembly.

“He told them Judge Robinson had three loves in his life ― 'his family, his religion and the law, but not necessarily in that order,'” Janney recalled.

After 20 years on the bench, Robinson retired in 1992, during which time he also served as a trial practice instructor at the U.Va. Law School, chairman of the Committee on Sentencing for the Judicial Conference of Virginia and as a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing.

Robinson additionally held roles in the community throughout his life, including president of the Luray Rotary, commander of the American Legion in Luray and president of the Massanutten Mental Health Association of Harrisonburg.

“The judge was respected among fellow judges and lawyers for his keen mind, scholarship and love of learning,” family members wrote in Robinson's obituary. “His friends, family and community will remember him for his commitment and dedication to fairness and justice for all, his Jewish faith and his family, as well as for his sharp wit.”

“He was always enjoying whatever litigation was in front of him,” said Shanks. “He understood the people who came before him, and he tempered his decisions in criminal cases and in civil cases with that understanding.”

Janney echoed those sentiments.

“He tried to temper justice in doing the right thing, and he did it with a great deal of compassion for the people in front of him,” said Janney. “This county and the whole circuit was lucky to have such a fine judge.”

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