Areshini Pather, deputy commonwealth’s attorney for Charlottesville, will become a judge in Virginia’s 16th Judicial District in December.
Pather, 43, has been part of the city office since 2011, and will serve a six-year term as a judge for one of the juvenile and domestic relations courts within the circuit. The 16th District includes Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Culpeper, Fluvanna, Goochland, Greene, Louisa, Madison and Orange.
The appointment comes following a vote from the General Assembly last month to fill in a vacancy that will be left when Judge Richard E. Moore retires at the end of November. Pather, along with 10 others, was elected by unanimous full General Assembly votes to serve in juvenile and domestic relations district courts throughout the Commonwealth.
Pather’s appointment does not fill the upcoming vacancy caused by Moore’s retirement. That appointment will be made later.
Moore’s eight-year term has been a tumultuous time for the Charlottesville Circuit Court. He oversaw many of the criminal cases spinning out of the Unite the Right rally as well as the legal attempts to prevent the removal of Charlottesville’s Confederate statues.
“I’m looking forward to serving my community in this wonderful new capacity starting in December,” Pather said. “The juvenile court is such an important court for the children and families of the 16th Judicial District. I am honored by this appointment, and I am grateful for the faith placed in me by the Virginia General Assembly.”
Prior to working as a prosecutor, Pather spent six years as a public defender, which she has previously mentioned as an influence for her understanding and appreciation of the law and the work of judges.
During her interviews, Pather also shared her experiences growing up as a person of color in South Africa during apartheid, which saw her and her family persecuted by an unjust system. During her 18 years of legal experience, Pather said she has worked on both sides of the aisle and has learned the value of compassion and kindness for both victims and those charged with crimes.
“I came to the United States from South Africa as a teenager. I couldn’t imagine that I would become a judge in this great country that has given so much to me,” she said. “I am honored to serve and give back to my community.”
Pather specializes in violent sexual assault prosecutions and often takes on the most emotionally difficult cases, according to Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania.
“Our community is losing the most fierce advocate for survivors of sexual assault that I have ever met, but our loss is the judiciary’s gain,” he said. “Areshini will bring to the bench a keen intellect, an unparalleled level of preparation and attention to detail, and a true and genuine sense of compassion for others. I am so happy for her.”
In the state Senate, the resolution for Pather’s judgeship was co-patroned by Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville. Following Pather’s election, Deeds emphasized her range of experience and qualifications, as well as the ranking of “highly qualified” bestowed by the Charlottesville Albemarle Bar Association.
“She represents the best of coming to this country, working hard, and finding success,” Deeds said. “She is well qualified for the bench and will be an outstanding jurist.”
Where Pather and the newly appointed judges will be posted remains to be determined. According to Jim Hingeley, president-elect of the local bar association and commonwealth’s attorney for Albemarle County, the assignments in the 16th district may be shuffled after the new judges take the bench.
The decision will likely take into account the needs and preferences of the courts and the judges.
“It might be, for example, that Pather would not sit in criminal court for the city as she would likely have a large number of conflicts initially,” he said. “So she could go to a different jurisdiction and the judge currently presiding in that jurisdiction could go to the city.”
Hingeley said he does not have any knowledge about what may have been decided but that assignment shuffling has happened in the District’s recent history.
“Where a judge ends up is not automatically determined by the jurisdiction where the vacancy has occurred,” Hingeley said.