Vera Hailey: Magistrate

By Kara Lofton | July 20th, 2015

Vera Hailey

At any time of the day (or night) Vera Hailey ’90 may be called upon to issue an arrest warrant, a subpoena, an emergency protective order, or a search warrant. She may need to commit someone to jail or process an involuntary mental commitment.

Hailey is a magistrate in western Virginia. “We are a neutral party,” she says, that reviews the initial complaints brought by law enforcement officers, citizens or other system stakeholders. Her role is to assess the information provided and decide which, if any, processes to issue.

Hailey’s primary offices are located in Verona, just north of Staunton. She can issue decisions in person or review a dispute remotely using video conferences. She says video conferencing allows the magistrates to serve the public more quickly.

“Each decision I make has a huge impact, both immediate and long term, on someone’s life,” she says. That influence is part of what makes her work both interesting and meaningful for her.

She started working as a magistrate, a position known as “Justice of the Peace” until 1974, almost 19 years ago. At the time, she just needed a job and the idea that she could make a difference in people’s lives appealed to her. “I deal with a lot of criminals, but also a lot of victims,” she says. No matter what the situation, she says the most important response she can bring to a complaint is neutrality.

“Every shift is different,” she says. “It seems like after almost 19 years the work would be boring, but that isn’t the case at all.”