Deborah C. Welsh walked in Loudoun County’s historic courthouse Friday evening in a black suit and pearls, and walked out an hour later with a black robe over shoulders and a gavel in hand.
Welsh, a Loudoun native, was sworn in as a General District Court judge for the 20th Judicial District, an appointment made by the Virginia General Assembly last month. She placed her hand on a family Bible and repeated the oath of office after Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Jean Harrison Clements, who also served as a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and Circuit Court judge in Loudoun. More than 200 of her friends—some she’s known since elementary school—family members, colleagues and judges serving from local courts to the Supreme Court of Virginia welcomed her with a standing ovation.
“Thank you all for the opportunity to serve this community—I so love this community,” Welsh said. “I hope I will be able to fulfill the tremendous responsibilities bestowed on me.”
Several individuals—state representatives, fellow attorneys and judges, including Virginia Supreme Court Justice William C. Mims—spoke of Welsh’s ability to listen, organize and remain impartial. But the attribute that the speakers noted most was her compassion.
Welsh brought at least six children into her family’s home to live while she served as a guardian ad litem, an advocate for children in court.
“She showed them compassion so they would learn compassion,” Clements said.
Welsh promised the crowded court room that she will not leave her compassion at the door of the court, but will exercise it in each case.
“They may not agree with me on my decision,” she said, “but I want them to feel that they have been heard and that they have had their day in court.”
Welsh, a Loudoun County High School graduate, served as the deputy town attorney for Leesburg from 1987-2001 and also served as Purcelville’s town attorney while in private practice.
She will primarily serve Loudoun County, but the 20th District also includes Fauquier and Rappahannock counties, which she will serve if a judge there is unable to preside.
Welsh has operated a private practice on Edwards Ferry Road for 30 years that she said her colleague, Chris Chamblin, will be taking over. She replaces Judge Julia Cannon, who retired April 30. Her term begins Sunday.