E. Duncan Getchell

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Earle Duncan Getchell, Jr. (born October 12, 1949 in Mobile, Alabama) is an American lawyer and a former nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Mr. Getchell is a former Solicitor General of Virginia.

Background[edit]

Getchell attended Emory University on an Air Force ROTC Scholarship and graduated with high honors. He then graduated with distinction from Duke University Law School, where he was on the staff and editorial board of the Duke Law Journal.

After law school, Mr. Getchell worked as an associate at McGuire, Woods & Battle for one year before serving as an Air Force JAG Officer in the Office of the General Counsel for two years, attaining the rank of Captain. He served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve 1971–1977, with active duty assignment 1975–1977. After his tenure with the Air Force, Mr. Getchell returned to McGuire, Woods & Battle in 1977 and remained there for over thirty years. He was made a partner in 1981 and then headed the firm's appellate litigation. Mr. Getchell is a fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, an elected member of The American Law Institute, and a permanent member of the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference.

In late 2009, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli named him Solicitor General of Virginia. In 2014, Mr. Getchell returned to practice at McGuireWoods LLP.[1]

Wintergreen lawsuit[edit]

In 2005, Getchell was the lead appellate attorney in a case involving a severely injured skier at Wintergreen Resort, near Charlottesville. At trial, a jury awarded the skier $8 million. Getchell represented Wintergreen on appeal. The Virginia Supreme Court dismissed the appeal when it discovered that Wintergreen’s lawyers neglected to file the trial transcript. As a result, Wintergreen had to pay the $8 million judgment.

Wintergreen’s trial lawyer blamed Getchell for the mistake. Wintergreen, however, sued the trial lawyer, Christopher C. Spencer of Richmond, alleging legal malpractice. The Virginian-Pilot reported on the error in October 2007. In November 2007, Spencer sued Getchell for $7.5 million, accusing him and a law partner of defamation for trying to pass off blame in the Wintergreen case. In the lawsuit, Spencer accused Getchell of shifting blame "in hopes of salvaging a troubled nomination to the federal bench."[2]

Fourth Circuit nomination[edit]

On September 6, 2007, President George W. Bush nominated Getchell to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated by Judge H. Emory Widener, Jr., who had taken senior status on July 17, 2007. From September 2003 until January 2007, William J. Haynes, II had been nominated for the position, but his nomination had met stiff opposition from Senate Democrats over his role as general counsel of the United States Department of Defense in the formulation of rules concerning the use of torture in Iraq. Getchell was nominated as Haynes' replacement.

In 2006, Virginia’s two U.S. Senators at the time – John Warner and George Allen, both Republicans – had recommended three candidates from Virginia for two open seats on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Getchell was on that list. But before Bush acted, Allen was defeated for re-election by Democrat Jim Webb. In July 2007, Warner and Webb submitted a new list of five names, and Getchell was not on it. Bush nominated Getchell anyway, noting that he was rated “highly qualified” by the Virginia State Bar. Warner and Webb did not support him, so his nomination never received a hearing. The Wintergreen matter also complicated Getchell's nomination.

Getchell withdrew his nomination from consideration on January 23, 2008. On May 8, 2008, Federal District Court Judge Glen E. Conrad was nominated in his stead.

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