Double Spider confirmed to U.S. District Court

December 2, 2022


As a judge, Elizabeth Hanes is prepared for anything that comes across her desk. The double Spider alum adopted that approach when she was a law student at the University of Richmond.

“I had a judicial internship, worked with two law firms, and had a part-time job with a corporation in my three years at UR Law because I wanted to see all the different ways I could be a lawyer,” Hanes said.

After serving as a public defender in Richmond and then working at a law firm, Hanes became a U.S. magistrate judge in 2020. Two years later, President Biden nominated her to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

She went through lengthy vetting, including a confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She leaned on her UR professors and was confirmed in August 2022.

“Many of the professors at the University of Richmond were helpful in understanding the process, and ensuring that I understood the types of questions that could be asked,” Hanes said.

The Eastern District of Virginia includes Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond. The district courts are the first level of the federal judiciary system, and Hanes is one of 20 judges in that district.

Hanes, who studied international studies and economics in her undergraduate years at Richmond, started her career working in finance at Liz Claiborne in New York City. Then, she spent a year as an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer in West Virginia, before returning to the University of Richmond for law school.

“I loved attending UR Law because I had access to different sizes of law firms, government, and corporations, so the opportunities went hand in hand with my education,” she said.

Following law school, she served as a law clerk for two different judges. 

“When I had the opportunity to assist them with the decision-making process and see cases come before them, that helped me realize that [becoming a judge] was something I could do,” Hanes said.

Now she uses every experience she has had in her career, from volunteering for AmeriCorps to serving as a public defender, when making decisions on the bench.

“When I sentence people, I look at numerous different factors, which include not just the nature and circumstances of the offense, but also the history and characteristics of the person,” Hanes said. “I’m not solely sentencing the crime. I am considering and weighing who that person is.”