February 8, 2019

Conversation with the Honorable David J. Whitted

Conversation contributed by Chanel Ann Gray

Judge David J. Whitted was appointed to the Chesapeake Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on July 6, 2018. Prior to his appointment, Judge Whitted was a Deputy Commonwealth Attorney in Chesapeake. Judge Whitted is known for his dedication to public service, gregarious laugh, and commitment to professionalism.

Judge Whitted is happily married to Mrs. Judy R. Whitted and they have three wonderful children. In his free time, Judge Whitted enjoys training for marathons and coaching football and basketball.

Q: Your Investiture felt like a moment in history to me and it also felt personal. Did it feel that way to you?

A: I’m not sure how important it was to the history of our state and legal practice. There are so many highly accomplished sitting and retiring judges who precede me. My Investiture was certainly important to me and my family. My wife asked me if there were any other families with three generation of judges and I could not think of any. My grandfather, Irvin Douglas Sugg Sr., was the first African-American judge to preside in Halifax County.

Q: How and when did you know you wanted to practice law?

A: I knew at an early age that I wanted to practice law. I grew up hanging out around my grandfather’s law office and I saw how much he loved practicing law.

Q: Which institutions did you attend for your undergraduate degree and Juris Doctor?

A: I attended Hampton University for my undergraduate studies and I majored in Business Management. I attended William and Mary School of Law.

Q: What were your work experiences in law school?

A: While in law school, I worked as a volunteer legislative aid/intern for Congressman Bobby Scott. I interned my first and second summers at retired Circuit Court Judge Joel Cunningham, Sr.’s former law firm.

Q: What were your work experiences after law school?

A: After I graduated, I worked for Stone and Associates, P.C., in Williamsburg focused mostly on domestic work. I then worked in the legal department at Sentara Healthcare. When I left Sentara, I worked as a Public Defender in Suffolk before coming to the Chesapeake Commonwealth Attorney’s Office in 2001. In 2005, I was promoted to Deputy Commonwealth Attorney.

Q: Looking back, what professional advice would you give to your younger self?

A: Be more focused and show more attention to detail. I would also tell myself to work harder at school and sports.

Q: Are you a member of any specialty bars? How important is service to the Virginia State Bar and specialty bars?

A: I am a member of the Old Dominion Bar Association, the Chesapeake Bar Association, the South Hampton Roads Bar Association, and the State Bar. I am also a member of the I’Anson Hoffman Inns of Court. Service to the bar and to the community is of the utmost importance.

Q: Pictures of you mentoring community youth are still hanging in the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. How important is community service and pro bono work to you?

A: Community services and pro bono work is important in every walk of life, not just the legal profession. I believe that people have a duty to help those less fortunate and I make it a priority to uplift young people. It is also very important to me for young people who live in socially or economically disadvantaged communities to regularly see professionals like me.

Q: When did you move to Chesapeake, Virginia? Would you say Chesapeake is a thriving area for young lawyers to live and practice?

A: I moved here in 1996 with my wife. It is a great area to raise a family. The City is becoming more developed and is a great place for a young attorney to live and practice. There are many opportunities to develop a niche practice, to connect with mentors, and to easily travel to the beach and recreational activities.

Q: February is the first annual Wellness Month for the legal community. How important is self-care and wellness to you? What do you do to maintain wellness?

A: Self-care and wellness, both physical and mental, are very important to me. As a judge, I sit down a lot so I strive to do strenuous activities each day. I run in the mornings and I also lift weights and play basketball. My wife is an excellent cook and makes healthy food taste good. My family and friends are a big part of my emotional wellness. My faith in God also plays a large role in my health and wellness.

Q: What professional achievement means the most to you?

A: I’m not sure if I have achieved that just yet. I am humbled by what many of my family and friends have accomplished professionally. Being appointed as a judge was something I have worked a long time for and I am very proud of that achievement.

Q: What personal achievement means the most to you?

A: Being married to my wonderful wife for 24 years and having three great children. I am also very proud to have completed the 2017 Shamrock marathon in about five hours. It was freezing rain, then snow and sleet. The road was flooded, and the winds were gusting. To have finished that particular marathon felt like a huge achievement.

Q: Do you have a life motto or quote to live by?

A: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “put good out into the world and it will surely come back to you.”

Q: How important is the practice of law for young professionals?

A: Young professionals should strive to be lifetime students by attending CLEs and reading law journals. It is extremely important for the legal profession to evolve as society and the law evolve. One thing that should not change is civility in court. I dislike when attorneys are not civil towards each other and/or the court.

Q: What book are you currently reading?

A: “Crusader for Justice: Federal Judge Damon J. Keith” by Peter J. Hammer and Trevor W. Coleman.

Q: I love that you and your uncle, the Honorable Bryant L. Sugg, have a friendly rivalry. It seems that iron does sharpen iron. Is it important for young lawyers to have a mentor who has achieved the things they desire to achieve?

A: Mentorship is extremely important. Attorneys need to strive to mentor young people in the community. I really appreciate the mentors who have helped me along the way.

Q: What does the term “diversity” mean to you? How important is diversity to the legal profession?

A: Our society has become increasingly diverse and the legal profession should mirror society. Diversity to me means a broad cross-section of backgrounds, whether that be race, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity.

Q: Being a judge is an incredible honor and privilege. It also seems daunting. How did you feel your first day on the bench?

A: I was nervous and anxious. I prayed a lot before that first day and still do. Being a judge is an extraordinary responsibility. What I do can affect people’s entire lives.

Q: Any parting words for young lawyers?

A: Continuously hone your craft. Work to improve yourself and the profession. Stay humble and do not become too self-important because it isn’t all about you.

About the Author

Chanel Ann Gray is an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Chesapeake