After 26 years, Judge Roberts retiring from juvenile court

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/22/2016, 12:25 p.m.
For 26 years, Judge Angela Edwards Roberts has been a presence in the Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Along ...
Judge Angela Edwards Roberts became the first elected African- American female judge in Virginia in 1990.

For 26 years, Judge Angela Edwards Roberts has been a presence in the Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Along with her colleagues, she has dealt with all the sad, messy issues involving individuals and families — ranging from cutody battles to stalking and domestic abuse to teens involved in bad behavior and criminal activity. She also has experienced the joy of helping create families through adoption.

“The work we do is emotionally draining,” Judge Roberts said. “We see everything that goes wrong with society. People come to us when they done to make the system fairer and more just. And I worked hard to create and support programs that made a difference.”

She will not put her black robe away for good.

“This is not the end,” Judge Roberts said. “I plan to take six months off to relax. And then I expect to sit in as a substitute judge.”

Judge Roberts made history in Virginia when, in 1990, she was the first African-American woman to win election from the General Assembly to serve on any court.

She started out in the old juvenile courthouse on Mecklenburg Street, but within six years, she and her colleagues were moved into a new $13 million courts and detention complex named for the late renowned attorney Oliver W. Hill Sr. located on a street named for him — a source of pride to her.

During more than two decades, Judge Roberts has left her mark on the court. Among other achievements, she helped overhaul the administration of the court and the scheduling of cases that ended “cattle- call” dockets. She also helped create several annual events at the court, including Adoption Day to celebrate new families.

“Judge Roberts is a leader, a mentor and a role model,” Judge Marilyn C. Goss wrote on behalf of herself, Chief Judge Ashley K. Tunner and Judge Richard B. Campbell, the two have nowhere else to go, when things go wrong and they need to fix them. And that’s what we try to do.”

Now 62, the judge with a dimple-cheeked smile who often has had to hide behind a stern judicial mask is counting down the days until she retires.

Already packing her office, her final day will be July 29.

For her, the time is right to retire, and she said in a recent interview that she leaves with “no regrets.”

“I care deeply about the people who come before me. I asked continuously what could be

other juvenile court judges who hear cases at the Oliver Hill Courts Building.

Among other things, Judge Roberts set the tone, particularly for new judges. “She has run her courtroom with dignity and expected the best from all who have appeared before her,” Judge Goss wrote.

While noting that Judge Roberts built a reputa- tion as a “strong, no-nonsense judge,” Judge Goss said Judge Roberts has been “an advocate for change,” particularly in dealing with juveniles.

She is credited with pushing the Richmond court to embrace the Juvenile DetentionAlternative Initiative after Jerrauld C. Jones, a former member