"If American law were to be represented by a single figure, skeptic and worshipper alike would agree without dispute that the figure could be but one alone, and that one is John Marshall."

Oliver Wendell Holmes
Associate Justice
United States Supreme Court

A Brief History

In 1988, Judge Robert R. Merhige, Jr., judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, was approached by the national American Inns of Court leadership to form an American Inn of Court in Richmond, Virginia. He enlisted Emanuel Emroch, E. Milton Farley, III, and James C. Roberts, three of the leading trial lawyers in Richmond, to petition the American Inns of Court Foundation for a charter. The result was the creation of the John Marshall Inn of Court on May 16, 1990, as the 116th American Inn of Court.

When Cheryl Ragsdale was the president of the Inn in 1998, and on the recommendation of a visiting professor at the University of Richmond law school, she invited a member of the faculty of the University of Richmond School of Law to nominate six law student members each year. This tradition has continued, and many of the student members have later joined the Inn as full members.

By 2003, the John Marshall Inn of Court had grown too large, and there were many lawyers in Richmond who were actively seeking membership. And so the decision was taken to split the Inn in two, and thus was formed the Lewis F. Powell, Jr., American Inn of Court. In many cities, the second American Inn of court was created by lawyers who wanted to join the existing Inn but were denied that opportunity; so they founded rival Inns out of the frustration of exclusion. In Richmond, this was avoided and the happy result was that both the established Inn and the new Inn quickly grew in membership back to the desired, optimal size without rancor and in the spirit of professional collegiality pursuant to the ideals of the national organization.

Notable Inn achievements include:

  • Two recipients of the Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Award for Professionalism and Ethics, one of the national foundation's highest honors. (Judge Merhige in 1999 and Justice Donald W. Lemons, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, in 2019.) 
  • Two recipients of the Sandra Day O'Connor Award for Professional Service. (Maya Eckstein in 2003 and Christy Kiely in 2007.)
  • Leadership with the national American Inns of Court Foundation, including a past President and Treasurer of the Foundation. 
  • Recipient of the Outstanding Program Award for the Justice in the Classroom program, in partnership with the John Marshall Foundation and the Virginia Law Foundation.

The John Marshall American Inn of Court has enjoyed Platinum Status, a hallmark of good management and exceptional programming, for over 10 consecutive years.