At a packed ceremony Tuesday, Jim Hingeley, the Albemarle County commonwealth’s attorney-elect, was sworn in along with several staff members, most of whom are new to the office.
Hingeley, a Democrat, won the November election against incumbent Robert Tracci, a Republican who was elected in 2015.
Within the county circuit courtroom, supporters and peers of Hingeley and his office filled the pews. Retired Judge Daniel R. Bouton oversaw the ceremony.
In his opening speech, Bouton highlighted the respect he has for Hingeley and for his long and varied career.
“You’ve heard of cats having nine lives, of course, well, [Hingeley] is a cat with nine careers,” Bouton joked.
Hingeley spent decades working as a defense attorney and helped to found the Charlottesville-Albemarle Public Defender’s Office, but he never shied from learning all the “nuts and bolts” of the legal system, Bouton said.
After being formally sworn in, Hingeley outlined his priorities and goals for the office in a speech. Acknowledging Tracci, Hingeley said it was clear his predecessor had been a diligent prosecutor who respected the office.
For his new position, Hingeley said he has broad goals that include having the community involved with deciding the values of the office and the direction in which to take the criminal justice system.
“The fact is, it is the community that owns the system of justice and it is the community that is affected by it,” he said. “The community should have a voice in what happens in the criminal justice system, and I want to be that voice of the community.”
In addition to Hingeley, several others were sworn in, including Alicia Milligan, an assistant public defender in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Public Defender Office, who now will serve as deputy commonwealth’s attorney. Milligan fills the position previously held by Darby Lowe, who became a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge in the 16th Judicial Circuit in July.
Milligan will join current assistant commonwealth’s attorneys Richard Farley and Tyler Sande, as well as four new assistant commonwealth’s attorneys: Shannon Neal, an assistant public defender with the Albemarle-Charlottesville Public Defender Office; Jordan McKay, of the Michie, Hamlett, Lowry & Tweel firm; Holly Vradenburgh, an adjunct constitutional law professor at the University of Virginia and the University of Richmond; and Armin Zijerdi, formerly an assistant public defender in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Public Defender Office.
At the start of next year, current assistant commonwealth’s attorneys Jeremy Boggs, Amanda Galloway and James Herring will not be employed by the Office of the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Following the ceremony, Hingeley expanded on the reasoning behind his staffing changes, saying it’s important to have a staff that shares his vision and goals.
“There’s more to it than being a good trial lawyer — that’s important — but … as a public official who’s formulating and carrying out public policy, you want to have people on your team who share the vision that you have,” he said. “I ran on a campaign of criminal justice reform, and so I have a different idea” of what the prosecutor’s office should be.
Hingeley and the rest of the new staff will formally take office Jan. 1.