View From the Bench

Judge George D. Varoutsos has presided over Arlington County's 17th District Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court since 1998. He's seen some things.

He achieved a nearly perfect attendance record at Yorktown High School—a “reverse truant,” he says wryly—then graduated from the University of Richmond with a bachelor’s and a law degree.

“My father wanted me to be a lawyer,” he says about his dad, Paul Varoutsos, a partner at Varoutsos, Koutoulakos, Arthur & Dolan, a law firm in Arlington. “It was expected of me.”

After law school, Varoutsos was fixed up with and married Sandra Trahos, a lovely girl from Alexandria who had happily attended Greek school; he then clerked for federal Judge Oren Ritter Lewis of the Eastern District of Virginia. He worked for his dad’s firm for a couple of years, then opened his own shop practicing civil and criminal litigation.

In 1998, the Virginia General Assembly elected Varoutsos to his first of four six-year terms sitting on the juvenile and domestic relations court bench. “In Arlington, there aren’t that many judgeships, and that was the position that became available when I was applying,” he says. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me. This court is so interesting. Every day is so different. And you feel good about the stuff you’re working on.”

He loves when someone makes the most of a break he has given them. He grows frustrated when “I’ve taken a chance on someone, and they didn’t take advantage of it and messed up later.”

Today Varoutsos is a trim 71 with wispy, receding gray hair and bushy, salt-and-pepper eyebrows. His forehead is creased with lines—perhaps the only outward sign of the tragedies he’s observed over time.

Inside his chambers, one finds a riot of D.C. team sports memorabilia—“I’m the oldest continuous season ticket holder of the Wizards,” he says proudly—alongside family pictures of his wife, his grown daughter, Christine, and his toddler grandson, Georgie. (It’s a Greek tradition to name a boy after his grandfather.) The requisite leather-bound lawbooks line the back wall, and a black judge’s robe lies draped over a chair.

His favorite part of judging comes on the first Wednesday of every month when he presides over the Formal Driver’s License Ceremony, lecturing and handing out licenses to 50-75 new drivers.

“I tell them it’s a privilege to have your license. But if you make a mistake for a second or two, it could be a major life-changing event,” he cautions.

Meanwhile, a life-changing event of a different sort is barreling toward the judge himself. He’ll be required to retire in a couple of years, at 73.

“I’m not looking forward to it, but I’m not dreading it,” he says. “It makes me nervous. It’s a sign of getting old.”

It’s not like he’ll have nothing to do. He could work part time as a substitute judge, and have coffee or lunch almost every day with one of the 30 friends from his Arlington school days that he still sees regularly.

He’ll go to ball games—he loves the Nationals and the Wizards (the Redskins, not so much) and attends most University of Richmond football home games. And he’s hoping to fly to his place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, more often.

Truthfully, he says, he’s already accomplished more than he ever imagined. He’s traveled to Greece, Italy and many national parks. He’s attended the last 29 Super Bowls.

When the Nats won the World Series in November—he attended all three home games—the boxes on his bucket list were officially checked.

“My life has gone too well,” he says.

Lisa Kaplan Gordon is a freelance writer living in McLean.


 

Categories: People