State’s long­est-serv­ing judge is busy plan­ning his par­tial re­tire­ment

Cacheris sen­tenced CIA agent, de­fended Mi­randa rights be­fore high court

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - BY RACHEL WEINER rachel.weiner@wash­post.com

A Vir­ginia fed­eral judge who up­held Mi­randa rights, loos­ened cam­paign fi­nance stric­tures and sent both a Ro­ma­nian hacker and a high-rank­ing CIA agent to prison will re­tire this fall.

James Cacheris, the first Repub­li­can to be­come a judge in North­ern Vir­ginia since Re­con­struc­tion, is also the longest­serv­ing fed­eral judge cur­rently on the bench in Vir­ginia. Be­fore he took the bench in the East­ern Dis­trict of Vir­ginia in 1981, he served on the Fair­fax County Cir­cuit Court bench.

For the past two decades, Cacheris has served as a se­nior jus­tice, mean­ing that he does not work a full caseload. Judge Ger­ald Bruce Lee, who is also re­tir­ing this fall, re­placed Cacheris on the ac­tive bench.

At 84, Cacheris, who is mar­ried and has four chil­dren, does not plan to fully re­tire. He says he will likely do me­di­a­tion work — to “get me out of the house.” But first, he says, he’d like to take an­other trip to Greece.

The son of Greek im­mi­grants, Cacheris was born in Pitts­burgh and raised in Bethesda and the Dis­trict, at­tend­ing the old Western High School. His brother, Plato Cacheris, is a prom­i­nent de­fense at­tor­ney in Wash­ing­ton.

Plato Cacheris said their par­ents never pushed them to be lawyers but pressed them hard to ed­u­cate them­selves. His fa­ther, who worked as a waiter in Chicago and Pitts­burgh, had only a six­th­grade ed­u­ca­tion.

“I am not sure what his par­ents fed their boys, but they seemed des­tined to lead the pro­fes­sion from both the bench and the bar,” said Jonathan Tur­ley, who rep­re­sented for­mer CIA case agent Harold James Ni­chol­son in Cacheris’s court. “Com­ing from a Greek fam­ily, the meals must have been as liti­gious as they were de­li­cious.”

In 1997, Ni­chol­son ad­mit­ted to spy­ing for the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment. From prison, he per­suaded his son Nathaniel to take up his ties with the Rus­sians and col­lect his “pen­sion.”

Judge Cacheris is known among at­tor­neys for his un­flap­pable de­meanor and the in­ten­sive prepa­ra­tion he de­mands of him­self and ex­pects of lit­i­gants.

“He com­mands so much re­spect be­cause he’s so steady on the bench. No de­tail es­capes him,” said Jim Hund­ley, who was a law clerk for Cacheris early in his ca­reer. “He tries re­ally hard to be a blank slate and judge a case based on the facts and the law and be ab­so­lutely fair to ev­ery lit­i­gant.”

Cacheris al­ways gets to the of­fice early and starts court ex­actly on time, said an­other for­mer clerk, Casey Stevens. If at­tor­neys are late, the judge makes his dis­plea­sure clear.

Off the bench, Cacheris is known as friendly and self­dep­re­cat­ing.

“He’s never let the po­si­tion go to his head,” said his son, John Cacheris, a lawyer in North Carolina. One of four chil­dren, he said Cacheris was a de­voted fam­ily man with no trace of ego. “He’s al­ways been ret­i­cent with the pub­lic spot­light — that’s just not who he is.”

In fact, Cacheris de­clined to pro­vide a pho­to­graph for this ar­ti­cle and ex­pressed hope that the news of his re­tire­ment would be buried on a busy day. He is funny and so­lic­i­tous with clerks and court sup­port staff, at­tor­neys said, al­ways learn­ing work­ers’ names and his­to­ries on even short trips to other court­houses.

“He’s sharp, thought­ful, gives equal con­sid­er­a­tion to all sides and is al­ways un­fail­ingly gra­cious,” said Geremy Ka­mens, the fed­eral pub­lic de­fender for Alexan­dria. “It’s hard to imag­ine the court­house with­out him.”

Sev­eral high-pro­file cases have forced him into the spot­light.

In 1992, Cacheris presided over the trial of a fer­til­ity spe­cial­ist who used his own se­men to im­preg­nate women and told them that they were preg­nant when they were not. Sen­tenc­ing the doc­tor to five years in prison, Cacheris said he had “not seen a case where there has been this de­gree of emo­tional an­guish and psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma.”

In a case that went to the Supreme Court in 1999, Cacheris up­held the Mi­randa warn­ing given to crim­i­nal sus­pects, throw­ing out a man’s con­fes­sion to com­mit­ting sev­eral bank rob­beries in Mary­land and Vir­ginia. The judge’s de­ci­sion was re­versed by a Vir­ginia court of ap­peals, which ruled that a 1968 crime law had ren­dered Mi­randa warn­ings moot. The Supreme Court sided with Cacheris, rul­ing that Congress could not undo Mi­randa.

“That was my zenith as a trial judge,” Cacheris said.

He was con­demned by cam­paign fi­nance ad­vo­cates in 2011 for rul­ing that the Supreme Court rul­ing in Cit­i­zens United al­lowed direct cor­po­rate con­tri­bu­tions in pol­i­tics.

“For bet­ter or worse, Cit­i­zens United held that there is no dis­tinc­tion be­tween an in­di­vid­ual and a cor­po­ra­tion with re­spect to po­lit­i­cal speech,” he wrote.

That de­ci­sion was over­turned by the Fourth Cir­cuit.

Cacheris also sen­tenced Guc­cifer, the Ro­ma­nian hacker who re­vealed that Hil­lary Clin­ton used a pri­vate email ad­dress while she was sec­re­tary of state and a man who plot­ted to blow up the U.S. Capi­tol.

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