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Posted at 10:31 AM ET, 02/ 9/2011

UPDATED: Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hassell dies

By Anita Kumar
Anita Kumar

Leroy R. Hassell Sr., 55, former chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, died Wednesday after a long illness.

He served two four-year terms on the court and was the court's first African-American chief justice. He was suceeded Jan. 31 by Chief Justice Cynthia D. Kinser.

UPDATE: 12:31 p.m.: Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) and Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli (R) have issued statements mourning Hassell's passing.

Bolling said:

I am saddened to hear of the passing of former Chief Justice Leroy Hassell, Sr. Chief Justice Hassell was an outstanding jurist and a good personal friend. He will be missed by all who knew him.

Chief Justice Hassell's impact on Virginia's judiciary will be felt for many years to come. As the first African-American Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, Chief Justice Hassell played an important role in continuing our state's progress toward a more perfect union. He was well respected by all who knew him and worked with him.

"In the days to come, I ask that all Virginian's keep Chief Justice Hassell's family in their thoughts and prayers. We have lost a good man and an outstanding public servant.

Cuccinelli said:

Today we mourn the passing of Justice Leroy Hassell, Sr., who has left us in the prime of his years. The Norfolk native will be nobly remembered by Virginians for many things, including his intellect, his warmth, and his concern for the downtrodden.

Justice Hassell served as the commonwealth's first black chief justice, which he accepted with both a measure of discomfort and resolve.

'I do not wish to serve, however, because I happen to be black,'Hassell told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2003. 'Rather, I desire to serve because I am a Virginian by birth who has a strong affection and love for the commonwealth and its people.'

Chief Justice Hassell played an important role in helping our generation look beyond the racial lines that separated us, and toward a culture of merit and justice that unite us. He was both generous and resolute in his determination to help his fellow man. Virginia is greater and stronger because of his example, and he will be greatly missed.

Today we pray for the repose of his soul and for God to comfort Justice Hassell's family and friends, as we give thanks for his service to our beloved commonwealth.

By Anita Kumar  | February 9, 2011; 10:31 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar  
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Comments

It is unusual to not see a cause of death associated with an important and historical figure like Virginia's first African American Supreme Court Chief Justice. News reports say he stepped down as Chief Justice about a year ago and that he commented on reacting badly to a new medication just last month.

Hassell's medical condition was no secret to many, and he referred to his health in public statements. By what news standard are readers not permitted to know what is common knownledge to everyone else? State Supreme Court Justice is a very important public job. That's why it was historical when Hassell was elected to the position by his peers on the court, after being appointed by Governor Baliles.

It looks even more awkward to see details about his children's legal troubles printed in the Richmond newspaper while details of Hassell's cause of death is not revealed. If anything, the privacy right should be reversed -- Hassell, Sr. is the public official. His children are not.

Posted by: blasmaic | February 10, 2011 5:54 PM | Report abuse


"died Wednesday at age 55 of complications from lymphoma."


http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/news/2011/feb/11/hassell-lie-state-capitol-rotunda-today-ar-836143/

A judge is a public official and has a lower expectation of privacy than even the son or daughter of a judge.

Posted by: blasmaic | February 11, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

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