February 10, 2011 — Virginia Supreme Court Justice Leroy R. Hassell Sr., a University of Virginia alumnus, died Feb. 9 in Richmond. He was 55.
Hassell, who received his undergraduate degree from the College of Arts & Sciences in 1977, was named the first black chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court in 2003.
He was the second African-American to sit on the bench. Then-Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, now director of U.Va.'s Miller Center of Public Affairs, appointed Hassell to the high court in 1989 when the McGuireWoods lawyer was 34.
Richard J. Bonnie, the chairman of the 2006 Virginia Commission on Mental Health Law Reform and a U.Va. law professor who directs the University's Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy, told the Washington Post that Justice Hassell "had very deep concerns about the importance of equal access to justice and fairness by every citizen, especially the poor, vulnerable and disenfranchised."
Hassell's daughter, Stephanie, graduated from U.Va. in 2007. Another daughter, Joanna, is a third-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences.