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Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Remembers District Judge Jackson L. Kiser

November 03, 2020

The United StateJudge Jackson L Kisers Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit mourns the passing of the Honorable Jackson L. Kiser, 91, who passed away on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. Judge Kiser served with distinction as a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Virginia for almost 40 years.

Judge Kiser was born in 1929 in Welch, West Virginia. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Concord College in 1951, and then his law degree from Washington and Lee University School of Law, where he graduated third in his class of 60.  After law school, Judge Kiser served as an officer in the U.S. Army JAG Corps, and later, in the U.S. Army Reserves, attaining the rank of Captain.

After his military service, Judge Kiser worked as a U.S. Commissioner for the U.S. District Court and then as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Western District of Virginia.  Judge Kiser later entered private practice with the law firm of Young, Kiser, Haskins, Mann, Gregory and Young in Martinsville, VA.  Over the next 20 years, Judge Kiser practiced general civil and criminal litigation, trying cases throughout the Commonwealth and establishing a reputation as a skilled trial lawyer and consummate gentleman.

In November 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Kiser to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, and the Senate confirmed his nomination the following month.  “A judgeship calls into play all your professional training as a lawyer.  I think it’s a good way to render public service,” Judge Kiser remarked at the time.

Over the course of his long and distinguished career on the Bench, Judge Kiser presided over thousands of civil and criminal cases, including trials in United States v. Virginia, the landmark case involving the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admissions policy, and United States v. Morrison, a matter involving Congress’ authority to enact the Violence Against Women Act. Both cases were eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and both are regularly taught in law schools across the country.

Judge Kiser had a demanding standard for all those who appeared in his court, including himself.  He once fined himself for being late to a court hearing, holding himself to the same exacting standards as those who appeared before him.  Generations of lawyers who appeared before Judge Kiser, including several who later became his judicial colleagues, fondly recall his kind and gentlemanly demeanor, steel-trap legal mind, and genuine delight during an effective cross examination.

Judge Kiser was also a kind and thoughtful mentor to the legion of law clerks who worked with him.  Stephen V. Groh, a former law clerk, fondly recalled some of the wise counsel that Judge Kiser dispensed: “be careful, high pay can come at a high cost,” “always be polite” and “never make a judge’s secretary angry with you.”

The Court of Appeals expresses its deepest condolences to Judge Kiser’s family, including his wife, Carole, to whom he was married for 66 years; his three children; four grandchildren; and brother, William.