Cynthia Kinser was the first woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. Her seventeen years of distinguished service to the Court ended with her retirement in 2014. In 2015, she joined Gentry Locke as Senior Counsel, where she focuses on appeals, criminal matters, and government investigations. Before serving on the Supreme Court of Virginia, Justice Kinser served as a Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee for the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. She later was appointed a United States Magistrate Judge for that court and served in that capacity for seven years. Prior to her tenure on the federal district court, she enjoyed being a solo practitioner in Pennington Gap, Virginia. Justice Kinser also served for four years as the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Lee County, where she lives and maintains a cattle farm to this day.
Years in the judiciary
Acres of my family's cattle farm
Years married to high school sweetheart
Pledge: Head, Heart, Hands, Health
You’ve had quite an illustrious legal career. What excites you most about your transition from the Supreme Court of Virginia to Gentry Locke?
In my role at Gentry Locke, I am once again serving clients directly, which I find so rewarding. I enjoy working with complex legal issues and determining answers and solutions to meet people’s needs. I’m also excited about using my 35+ years of legal experience to assist my clients, applying my insights into judicial thinking, and narrowing issues down to the "heart of the matter" in our quest to achieve a favorable result.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in law?
I loved learning about Virginia government in elementary school. That initially sparked my interest, and from that time forward, I set my sights on becoming a lawyer. From the very first day of college, my goal was to work hard and make strong grades so I would be able to get into law school.
You seem to have a very strong resolve that has driven you in your life and career.
As a young girl living in rural Lee County, Virginia, my desire to pursue a career in law simply wasn’t the norm. Yet I was determined to prove that I could achieve my goal. I owe a lot of my resolve and values to my parents and my participation in 4-H; its motto—"To Make the Best Better"—taught me to strive to do my very best. The 4-H organization provided opportunities to build confidence and determination, to learn to set and achieve goals, and to gain many other essential life skills.
What lessons have you learned from farming life that translate to your career in law?
I work hands-on with our cattle and hay farm. It is hard, but enjoyable work. The farm teaches patience. You have to nurture the animals and crops and you can’t rush either along. This patience is equally important when practicing law.
How do you relax?
I think that it is very important to be grounded in community and family. Even during my tenure on the Supreme Court of Virginia, I found time to play the piano and organ for church and for my own pleasure. Music is a wonderful way to relax. I also love to travel. During my college years, I lived with families in India for four months on an exchange program. My most recent trip was to Peru. So far, Machu Picchu and Cape Town, South Africa have been my favorite places to explore.
- University of Virginia School of Law, J.D. 1977
- University of Tennessee, B.A. with highest honors, 1974
- Represents clients in appellate matters to be brought before the United States Supreme Court and the United States Courts of Appeals. Provides legal counsel and consulting services to clients in motions practice, preservation of error, and appellate matters
- Represents clients in criminal matters, including white collar crimes, government investigations, and in matters of inquiry and charges leveled by governmental agencies
- Appointed to the Supreme Court of Virginia in 1997 and elected by her peers as Chief Justice in February of 2011, for a total of seventeen years of service
- Appointed a Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia; served from 1990-1997
- Served as Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee for the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia from 1984-1990
- Served as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Lee County, Virginia from 1980-1984
- Member, Board of Directors, Mountain Empire Community College Foundation (2016-Present)
- Member, Board of Directors, Federal Magistrate Judges Association (1992-1995)
- Member, Board of Directors, Conference of Chief Justices (2012-2014)
- Member, Virginia State Bar Ninth District Ethics Committee (1982-1985)
- Member, National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees (1984-1990)
- Member, Lee County Bar Association (1990-Present), Past President (1981-1982)
- Member, Virginia State Bar
- Member, The Virginia Bar Association
- Member, Virginia Trial Lawyers Association
- Former Member, Board of Trustees, Appalachian School of Law
- Member, Board of Directors, Virginia 4-H Foundation (1987-1990)
- Member, Board of Directors, Lee County Arts Association (1987-1990)
- Fellow, Virginia Law Foundation (inducted 2016)
- Recipient, Virginia Bar Association Gerald L. Baliles Distinguished Service Award, the VBA’s highest honor (2015)
- Awarded the 2014 Harry L. Carrico Outstanding Career Service Award by the Judicial Council of Virginia
- Recipient, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law (2011)
- Co-author, Escobar Aftermath: Expanded Liability, Uncertainty and More Trials; U.S. Law Week published by Bloomberg BNA (November 3, 2016).
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