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Overview

"A 'very smart lawyer' who offers clients extensive experience handling commercial litigation arising from real estate transactions."  Chambers USA

John assists clients in resolving civil disputes with particular emphasis on cases arising in connection with the development of real property such as land use, environmental law, eminent domain, property assessment, insurance, and contract disputes. Since joining the firm in 1980, John has served as lead counsel in a wide variety of litigation matters ranging from routine business disputes to “bet-the-company” litigation.  In addition to practicing, John is active in civil justice reform as a member of the Steering Committee and former Chair of the Boyd-Graves Conference, as well as regularly teaching and writing on topics related to Virginia Civil Procedure.  His work in University of Richmond Law Review has been cited by the Virginia Supreme Court.

John has serves as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law, teaching courses on Virginia civil procedure and advanced trial advocacy. He has also served as faculty for the Virginia Supreme Court Professionalism Course and pre-bench training on Virginia Civil Procedure.

Recognition

Selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, Appellate Practice, as one of the “Richmond Lawyers of the Year”, 2018

Selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, Appellate Practice, Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law; Litigation – Real Estate, Litigation – Trusts & Estates, Woodward/White, Inc., 2012-2018

Selected for inclusion as a “Super Lawyer,” Business Litigation, Virginia Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters, 2013-2017

Named a “Leader in the Field,” Litigation: General Commercial, Virginia, Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, 2017 and 2018

Named to “Legal Elite” (Civil Litigation), Virginia Business, 2011 and 2013-2014, 2018; (Appellate Law), Virginia Business, 2016 and 2017

Selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, Trust and Estates as one of the “Richmond Lawyers of the Year”, 2016

Named a “Leader in the Law,” Virginia Lawyers Weekly, 2013

Former Chair and Member of Steering Committee, Boyd Graves Conference

AV Peer Review Rating, Martindale-Hubbell

  • 2019 "Best Law Firms" Badge Artwork
  • chambers 2018
  • Virginia Legal Elite

Experience

Experience

Land Use Litigation

John regularly handles appeals of zoning and other land use decisions, including defending approvals obtained by the Land Use Team which are appealed by others.  Several of these cases have gone all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court and are now leading precedents on standing, assessment of connection fees, spot zoning and other land use issues.  John was also lead counsel on the Fairfax (“C&I”) litigation involving over 300 suits with 40 law firms opposing the County.  John successfully argued two appeals on behalf of the County.

Tax Assessment Appeals

John also frequently appeals assessments of real estate and taxable equipment.  This practice has included cases involving assessments in excess of $100 million.  In addition, John has successfully defended tax collection proceedings, including a major decision dismissing efforts to collect on behalf of a CDA which resulted in “emergency” legislation by the General Assembly.

Condemnation Litigation

John has represented many landowners in condemnation litigation against VDOT and other condemning authorities and has secured substantial increases over pre-litigation offers. He is also one of the few attorneys to defeat a condemnation for lack of public purpose in a case cited to the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo as the leading authority in Virginia on point.

Environmental Matters

John has handled a variety of cases involving environmentally sensitive materials. In one case, a local government attempted to block relocation of a transformer recycling business due to its handling of small levels of PCBs. John was successful in forcing issuance of all necessary permits.

Estates and Trust Litigation  

Another area of concentration in John’s practice is litigation involving estates and trusts, including construction of wills and trusts, estate tax allocation, fiduciary misconduct and aid, and guidance litigation.  He has been involved in litigation regarding the administration of several multimillion dollar estates.  One in particular involved the distribution of an approximately $19 million net estate and resulted in rulings on issues of first impression in Virginia in favor of our clients.

Class Actions

John served as one of the lead attorneys in a major class action resulting in a $25 million settlement and later served as trustee of the settlement fund in disbursing the proceeds of the case to hundreds of class members.  This case was reported in the Wall Street Journal and other major financial publications.

Appellate Litigation

The Virginia Supreme Court hears all civil appeals on a discretionary basis, many seasoned trial attorneys have not argued a single Virginia Supreme Court case.  Rarely does an attorney in private civil practice argue more than one or two in a lifetime. To date, John has 18 reported by the Virginia Supreme Court*:

Western Refining Yorktown, Inc. v. County of York, Virginia, 793 S.E.2d 777 (2016)

CVAS 2, LLC v. City of Fredericksburg, 289 Va. 100, 766 S.E.2d 912 (2015)

Friends of the Rappahannock, et al. v. Caroline County Board of Supervisors, et al., 286 Va. 38, 743 S.E.2d 132 (2013)

Russell Realty Associates, et al. v. C. Edward Russell, Jr., 283 Va. 797, 724 S.E.2d 690 (2012)

Riverside Healthcare Association, Inc., et al. v. Sarah E. Forbes, Former Trustee of the Sarah E. Forbes Riverside Trust, et al., 281 Va. 522, 709 S.E.2d 156 (2011)

Eagle Harbor, LLC v. Isle of Wight County, 271 Va. 603, 628 S.E.2d 298 (2006).

Cangiano v. LSH Building Co., LLC, 271 Va. 171, 623 S.E.2d 889 (2006).

Chesterfield Meadows Shopping Center Associates, L.P. v. Smith, 264 Va. 350, 568 S.E.2d 676 (2002).

Smith v. Chesterfield Meadows Shopping Center Associates, L.P., 259 Va. 82, 523 S.E.2d 834 (2000).

Board of Zoning Appeals of James City County v. University Square Associates, 246 Va. 290, 435 S.E.2d 385 (1993).

County of Fairfax v. Fleet Indus. Park Ltd. Partnership, 242 Va. 426, 410 S.E.2d 669 (1991).

County of Fairfax v. Southern Iron Works, Inc., 242 Va. 435, 410 S.E.2d 674 (1991).

Barrick v. Board of Supervisors of Mathews County, 239 Va. 628, 391 S.E.2d 318 (1990).

Counts v. Stone Container Corp., 239 Va. 152, 387 S.E.2d 481 (1990).

Fidelity and Guaranty Insurance Underwriters, Inc. v. Allied Realty Co., Ltd., 238 Va. 458, 384 S.E.2d 613 (1989).

J.W. Woolard Mechanical & Plumbing, Inc. v. Jones Development Corp., 235 Va. 333, 367 S.E.2d 501 (1988).

City of Charlottesville v. DeHaan, 228 Va. 578, 323 S.E.2d 131 (1984).

Hening v. Maynard, 227 Va. 113, 313 S.E.2d 379 (1984).

*CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE.

Perspectives

News

Community

Community

Professional Affiliations

Virginia Bar Association

Richmond Bar Association

International Association of Assessing Officers

Local Government Attorneys

Beyond the Law

Beyond the Law

Outside of work, John enjoys sailing his sailboat, Jolly Mon.  John and his family have spent many years exploring the Chesapeake Bay and its many rivers, creeks and bays along with the islands of the Caribbean and Aegean Seas.  The name Jolly Mon comes from a Jimmy Buffet song about a guitar playing Rastafarian who sails from island to island making people happy with his music.  Likewise, John and his band, the “Usual Suspects” entertain at private parties and charity events in and around Richmond.  Formed initially as purely a garage band, the Suspects have remained together almost as long as the Rolling Stones.  An avid runner, John regularly competes in 10K’s and half marathons and celebrated a recent birthday by running the Marine Corps Marathon.

University of Richmond School of Law, J.D.

College of William & Mary, B.A.

  • Virginia
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals (Fourth Circuit)
  • U.S. District Court (Eastern District and Western District of Virginia)
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
  • U.S. Tax Court
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