Earle Duncan Getchell, Jr.
(born October 12, 1949 in Mobile, Alabama) is an American lawyer and a
former nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the
Getchell graduated from Emory University with high honors, which he attended on an Air Force ROTC Scholarship.
graduated with distinction from Duke University Law School
he was on the staff and editorial board of the Duke University Law Review
After law school, Mr. Getchell worked as an associate at McGuire,
Woods & Battle for one year before serving as an Air Force
Officer in the
Office of the General Counsel for two years, attaining the rank of
Captain. (Mr. Getchell served in the United States Air Force
1971–1977, with active duty assignment from 1975–1977.) After his
tenure with the Air Force, Mr. Getchell returned to McGuire, Woods
& Battle (now McGuireWoods
) in 1977
and has remained there ever since. He was made partner in 1981, and
currently heads the Appellate Litigation Practice Group at the
Fourth Circuit nomination under Bush
On September 6, 2007, President George
W. Bush nominated
Mr. Getchell to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit vacated by Judge H. Emory Widener, Jr.
, who had taken
on July 17, 2007. From
September 2003 until January 2007, William J. Haynes, II had been nominated for the
position, but his nomination had met stiff opposition from Senate Democrats over the
role he had played during his tenure as the general counsel of the
United States Department of
Defense in the formulation of rules concerning the use of
torture in Iraq.
Getchell was nominated as Haynes' replacement.
Virginia’s two U.S.
senators at the time – John Warner and
George Allen, both
Republicans – had
recommended three candidates from Virginia for two open seats on
the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Getchell was on that list.
But before the president acted, Allen was defeated for re-election
by Democrat Jim Webb
. In July, Warner and Webb submitted a new
list of five recommended names for the court, and Getchell’s was
not on it. Nevertheless, Bush nominated Getchell, noting that he
was rated “highly qualified” by the Virginia State Bar
. Warner and Webb did
not support him, so his nomination never received a hearing.
Complicating matters was Getchell’s role in a botched $8 million
appeal. In 2005, Getchell was the lead appellate attorney in a case
involving a severely injured skier at Wintergreen Resort, near
Charlottesville. At trial, a jury awarded the skier $8 million.
Getchell represented Wintergreen on appeal. The Virginia Supreme
Court, however, dismissed the appeal when it was
discovered that Wintergreen’s lawyers neglected to file the trial
As a result, the $8 million judgment had to be
Fingers pointed back and forth. Wintergreen’s trial lawyer blamed
Getchell for the mistake. Wintergreen, however, sued the trial
lawyer, Christopher C. Spencer of Richmond, alleging legal
malpractice. The Virginian-Pilot reported on the error in
In November, Spencer sued Getchell for $7.5 million, accusing him
and a law partner of defamation for trying to pass off blame in the
Wintergreen case. In the lawsuit, Spencer accused Getchell of
shifting blame “in hopes of salvaging a troubled nomination to the
Mr. Getchell withdrew his nomination from consideration on January
23, 2008. On May 8, 2008, federal district court judge
Glen E. Conrad
was nominated as his