James Spencer

Judge James R. Spencer

Judge James R. Spencer (retired) is currently a mediator and arbitrator with The McCammon Group headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. Judge Spencer was formally a Judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. In 1986, he became the first African American Federal Judge in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In December of 2004, he became the first African American Chief Judge in the 215-year history of the Court. His time as Chief Judge ended in December of 2011. Judge Spencer retired from the court in June of 2017. His tenure with The McCammon Group began in January of 2018. 

A native of Florence, South Carolina, Judge Spencer is 1971 magna cum laude graduate of Atlanta’s Clark College. He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1974. Following graduation from law school, Judge Spencer served one year as a staff attorney in the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, and four years in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corp. In 1978, he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia where he was a member of the elite Major Crimes Division. In 1983, he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Richmond, Virginia (Chief of Criminal Division) and remained there until he was appointed a U.S. District Court Judge on October 14, 1986. Judge Spencer was a faculty member at the Federal Judicial Center, where he trained new Judges in case management and budget, death penalty prosecutions and patent law adjudication. Judge Spencer was appointed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist to the Defender Services Committee of the Judicial Conference and was the Chairman of the Subcommittees on Federal Death Penalty Prosecutions and Case Management. Judge Spencer also taught Trial Advocacy, Evidence and Federal Courts at the University of Virginia School of Law.  

Also, a summa cum laude graduate of Howard University’s School of Divinity, Judge Spencer is a frequent lecturer and renowned motivational speaker. He is affiliated with several professional, social, and civic organizations, including: The National Bar Association, American Bar Association, Federal Judges Association, American Judicature Society, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. He is a member of the Bar in Georgia (1974), District of Columbia (1978) and Virginia (1985). His personal interests include golf, tennis, reading and martial arts. He is married to Judge Margaret Poles Spencer, a retired Judge of the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond, Virginia.