Judge Elizabeth Hanes was born in 1978 in Roanoke, Virginia. She earned her B.A. from the University of Richmond, graduating summa cum laude in 2000. After graduation, Judge Hanes worked in corporate finance for Liz Claiborne, a fashion company. Judge Hanes left her position to work as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in West Virginia where she helped establish a nonprofit which provided services to abused children and crime victims. Afterwards, Judge Hanes attended Richmond Law where she graduated summa cum laude and was an Executive Board Member of the Law Review.
Following law school, Judge Hanes clerked at both the trial court and appellate court level. From 2007-2008, she clerked for Hon. Joseph R. Goodwin in the Southern District of West Virginia. From 2008-2009, she clerked for Hon. Robert B. King in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourt Circuit. Both judges were nominated by President Bill Clinton.
Judge Hanes has extensive experience working in federal courts in both civil and criminal law; 60 percent of her cases related to criminal law, and 40 percent related to civil law. Furthermore, Judge Hanes argued 95 percent of her cases in federal courts.
From 2009-2016, Judge Hanes joined the Federal Public Defender’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia as an Assistant Federal Public Defender. Judge Hanes represented hundreds of indigent clients charged with a variety of misdemeanor and felony offenses. Judge Hanes served as the lead counsel for many of these cases, handling preliminary hearings, jury and bench trials, and sentencing. Judge Hanes also wrote several appellate briefs and argued several appeals. As an Assistant Federal Public Defender, Judge Hanes also engaged in various non-litigation activities. She assisted incarcerated individuals with matters related to confinement including access to mental health, medical care, or other treatment programs.
After 7 years at the Federal Public Defender’s office, Judge Hanes joined Consumer Litigation Associates as a consumer protection civil litigator, where she worked until 2020. Judge Hanes’ clients primarily included lower income individuals, and military service members and veterans and their families whose cases related to predatory lending practices. Judge Hanes was extremely successful in obtaining financial compensation and relief for her clients. For example, in Spendlove v RapidCourt, Plaintiffs Owen Spendlove and Jacob Cross brought a class action suit against RapidCourt, a consumer reporting agency. Spendlove and Cross alleged that RapidCourt reported outdated and inaccurate criminal information which negatively impacted their ability to obtain employment. As co-counsel, Judge Hanes oversaw a successful negotiation settlement.
While working as a civil litigator, Judge Hanes remained involved in criminal law issues. She continued handling cases as a Criminal Justice Act Court Appointed Attorney for indigent clients and as a pro bono attorney to the Federal Public Defender’s office. For example, in United States v Hill, Judge Hanes filed an amicus brief before U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on behalf of the federal public defender’s office, arguing that the Federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act exceeded Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. In a 2-1 opinion, the court ultimately found that the Federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act did not exceed congress’s commerce power.
In 2020, Judge Hanes was unanimously selected to serve as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia by the federal district judges in Richmond, on the recommendation of a selection committee composed of lawyers and other citizens of the Richmond area. She was sworn in to begin an eight-year term on June 12, 2020, not long after courts shifted to video conferencing platforms for hearings and settlement conferences in response to the pandemic. Despite COVID-19, the Virginia Eastern District remains known as a “rocket docket” where civil cases are resolved quickly relative to other courts.
In her capacity as a Magistrate Judge, Judge Hanes has overseen discovery, handled administrative appeals, and adjudicated cases. She has developed substantial expertise in dispute resolution, having mediated over 100 cases covering a broad range of civil litigation. She has also been responsible for administering the Second Chance Offender Rehabilitation Effort (SCORE), a drug-court program providing mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and other resources to individuals with drug-related violations of their supervised releases.
After nearly two years in the position, Judge Hanes has yet to have a decision reversed or affirmed with significant criticism. The following cases are representative of Judge Hanes’ judicial record for her two years presiding over the Eastern District of Virginia.
During her time on the bench, Judge Hanes has facilitated settlement agreements between state officers and individuals alleging civil rights violations. In Banks v. City of Fredericksburg, nine individuals peacefully protesting systemic racism after the death of George Floyd sued Fredericksburg, Virginia, alleging that the city’s police department violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights by enacting a city-wide curfew and deploying tear gas cannisters, pepper spray, and rubber bullets, and trapping them in enclosed areas. In Monk v. Gulick, the plaintiff, James Monk, alleged that defendant police officers used excessive force against him, in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, during a traffic stop. The officers, who forced him to the ground and tasered him, asserted that their use of force was justified by plaintiff’s non-compliance with their commands. In both cases, Judge Hanes conducted a settlement conference resulting in a confidential monetary award for the plaintiffs.
Judge Hanes has reversed the denial of social security benefits to numerous plaintiffs with disabilities. In Suzanne O. v. Saul, the plaintiff, Suzanne O., appealed an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) decision to deny her social security benefits despite suffering from fibromyalgia and spine disorders. These conditions rendered Suzanne unable to work on a sustained basis, and she appealed the decision based on the ALJ assigning too little weight to the opinion of her physician. Judge Hanes reversed and remanded the case, concluding that the ALJ erred in failing to consider the opinion of Suzanne’s treating physician, and erred in dismissing Suzanne’s credibility and subjective complaints of pain.
In Charlene L. v. Saul, the plaintiff, Charlene L., appealed an ALJ’s decision to deny her social security benefits. Charlene claimed that she suffered from degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, migraines, obesity, and anxiety disorders that left her unable to work. Judge Hanes recommended that the denial of benefits be reversed and remanded due to legal errors committed by the ALJ, and District Judge Robert E. Payne adopted the recommendations. In Teresa C. v. Saul, Judge Hanes recommended the reversal of the denial of benefits to the plaintiff, Teresa C., who was suffering from degenerative disc disease, sleep apnea, diabetes, anxiety, and depression, among other health complications. District Judge M. Hannah Lauck adopted the recommendations.
In a series of cases, including Cortez-Melton v. Capital One Fin. Corp., former employees sued Capital One for violations of the Age Discrimination and Employment Act and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The plaintiffs alleged that Capital One discriminated against older workers and misclassified employees as exempt from FLSA overtime requirements. The parties reached a resolution at a settlement conference overseen by Judge Hanes and the cases were subsequently dismissed. In an unrelated case also involving Capital One, Capital One Fin. Corp. v. Sykes, the corporation sued former employees Brian Sykes, Jonathan Wood, and Timothy Smits for allegedly sending confidential information to a business competitor, while the defendants counterclaimed for unpaid commissions due to breach of contract. Judge Hanes conducted a settlement conference resulting in the entry of a consent order and dismissal of the case.
Professional Activities and Accolades
Judge Hanes is a member of the legal academic community in Richmond, frequently teaching classes related to criminal law and trial advocacy. Furthermore, Judge Hanes has been extensively involved in bar activities. As past president and current member of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Richmond Women’s Bar Association, Judge Hanes has planned trainings, panel discussions, and speakers to promote diversity in the legal profession. Currently, Judge Hanes sits on the Criminal Justice Act Committee, Richmond division, which appoints panel attorneys to represent indigent clients based on attorney experience. She also served on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Law Foundation, which provides grants to projects throughout Virginia that promote access to justice.
Judge Hanes has been strongly commended for her service in the Richmond community earning the Women of Achievement Award from the Metropolitan Richmond Women’s Bar Association (2021), the Leader in Law Award from Virginia Lawyers Weekly (2019), the Frankie Muse Freeman Organizational Pro Bono Award (2019), and Elite Trial Award in Financial Services from The National Trial Lawyers (2019).