Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Elizabeth Bermingham Lacy

ELIZABETH BERMINGHAM LACY (1945– )

Courtesy of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

A pioneer in the legal profession in Virginia, Elizabeth Bermingham Lacy holds the distinction of being the first female deputy attorney general in the state, the first female judge on the State Corporation Commission, and the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Virginia. Born on January 12, 1945, in South Carolina, she grew up in Wisconsin and earned a law degree at the University of Texas. In 1982 she began work in the Virginia attorney general's office, where she supervised all civil litigation. She received a Master of Laws degree from the University of Virginia in 1992.

Lacy served on the Virginia State Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities and other public service businesses, for almost four years, from April 1985 to December 1988, when the governor appointed her to a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Virginia. The General Assembly elected Lacy to twelve-year terms on the court in 1989 and again in 2001. She earned a reputation for her no-nonsense approach, advising lawyers to submit their briefs in plain intelligible English, not in legalese. She also wrote hundreds of opinions on a variety of subjects.

Lacy's skill and determination have undoubtedly opened doors for women in what has historically been a male-dominated profession. At the time of her retirement from the court in mid-August 2007 to take senior status, three of Virginia's seven Supreme Court justices were women, as was the immediate past-president of the Virginia State Bar. “Seeing a woman as a judge gives any young woman the almost subconscious belief or idea that she can do it,” Lacy has said. “To the extent that my role has contributed to that, that's a really good thing.”

Related Links:

Virginia Women in History 2009: Elizabeth Bermingham Lacy