St. Thomas attorney Maria Tankenson Hodge recently had to reorganize and reconstitute her law firm when partner Denise Francois was appointed to a V.I. Superior Court judgeship after decades with the firm. But that’s business as usual for Hodge, who said Thursday that Francois was the fourth member of her firm to leave for a V.I. judgeship in less than a decade.
"Denise was a partner with the firm for over 20 years and a lawyer with us for over 30," Hodge said Thursday afternoon.
With Francois gone to greener pastures, the former firm of Hodge and Francois is going on with two partners now: Hodge and son, Mark Hodge, she said. "But it is a little unusual in the Virgin Islands to have someone with a single firm for that long. And to have so many lawyers from one firm go on to seats in the courts," she said.
In 2009, the firm lost two long-time attorneys when Alan Smith and Kathleen Mackay were both appointed to be magistrate judges, she recalled. Mackay, who later became a Superior Court judge, was an associate with the firm for more than 10 years, then partnered with attorney Derek Hodge before joining the bench, Maria Hodge said. (See related links below)
"Then there was Adam Christian, who was with us over 10 years," Hodge said. "Adam was legal counsel to the governor when he was first elected, then went on to become Superior Court Judge," she said.
Smith has since retired. Francois, Mackay and Christian currently hold three of the six St. Thomas judgeships.
While it has been difficult to see Francois and others leave the firm, it’s also a source of pride for her, Hodge said, echoing her endorsement of Francois when the Senate considered her nomination earlier this year.
"While I will greatly miss her as a partner … she will be a magnificent judge, giving our community both wisdom and excellence in her work and the compassionate and fair demeanor we all hope for in our judges," said Hodge in a letter to the Senate at the time.
Hodge has been practicing law in the territory since 1976 and, while all things change, she has high hopes for the law firm into the future.
"The two partners left at Hodge and Hodge are mother and son. And we hope to carry on our tradition a long time," Hodge said.