BERRYVILLE — Mary Costello Daniel of Berryville has been appointed a general district court judge for the 26th Judicial District.
Her appointment means she will have to resign as the Berryville District representative on the Clarke County Board of Supervisors to avoid a potential conflict of interest.
Daniel, 51, currently is a partner in the Winchester law firm of Booth Strange & Daniel. She practiced law in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and Berryville before opening her own law practice in Winchester in 1998.
She also spent seven years as a part-time assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Winchester, where she prosecuted domestic violence and sexual assault cases.
A Frederick County native, Daniel received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and her juris doctor — the highest law degree in the United States — from the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond.
Daniel, a Democrat, was elected to a second four-year term on the board of supervisors in November. Prior to her first term, she served on Berryville Town Council and the Clarke County Planning Commission.
Ian Williams, a general district court judge for Winchester and Frederick, retired in February, leaving a vacancy on the bench. Lawmakers from the 26th Judicial District — which includes Winchester, Harrisonburg and Frederick, Clarke, Shenandoah, Warren, Rockingham and Page counties — appointed Daniel to fill the vacancy.
“The consensus was that she would make an excellent judge,” said Del. Chris Collins, R-Frederick, adding that he agrees.
“She’s very cool-headed,” said Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke. “She thinks things through. She’s not impulsive” when handling legal matters.
Furthermore, “it’s time we diversify the bench across Virginia with qualified candidates,” including women, Gooditis said.
Daniel will officially start serving as a judge on June 1. She is both excited and humbled at the opportunity, she said.
“I’m really looking forward to trying to make a difference” in the community, she said, through her decisions in the courtroom.
She doesn’t yet know where she will be assigned. That decision will be made by the district’s chief judge.
However, she surmised that she mostly will work in Winchester and Frederick because that is where Williams was based.
She would like to be able to preside over cases in Clarke, too, she said.
Williams “didn’t sit in Clarke County,” though, she mentioned, “probably because his daughter (Anne Williams) is the commonwealth’s attorney.”
Daniel has practiced law since 1993. She said she initially never thought about becoming a judge. Then in 2009, former Winchester-based Judge Clifford “Clay” Athey, who now serves on the Virginia Court of Appeals, invited her to interview for a vacant position, and she realized that a judgeship eventually might be possible for her, she recalled.
“I’ve interviewed off-and-on (for judgeships) for the last 10 years,” she said.
Daniel has not yet submitted her resignation to the board of supervisors. Since she found out last Tuesday that she was selected as a judge, her mind mostly has been on making arrangements for her current legal clients’ needs to be handled by other lawyers, she said.
Clarke County Administrator Chris Boies said that after the board receives her resignation, it will petition the Circuit Court to hold a special election for the Berryville District seat in November. In the meantime, the board can — and probably will — appoint someone to temporarily fill the seat, he said.
“The board is excited for her,” Boies said. “It’s a big deal to be a judge. She’s been a great supervisor. She certainly deserves this new challenge.”
Despite looking forward to being a judge, Daniel said she is “very sad” to have to end her service as a supervisor early.
“It’s something I’d like to see through,” she said, until her current term ends at the end of 2023.
“But everyone has to go sometime,” she added.