Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax, in line to succeed the embattled governor but also the subject of a sex assault claim which he denies, is a rising legal and political star with stints in Big Law and as a federal prosecutor in Virginia.
Fairfax, 39, has spent time at multiple law firms and is currently a partner at Morrison & Foerster in its Washington and Northern Virginia offices in addition to his part-time official duties in Richmond.
Fairfax has been in the spotlight since Friday’s bombshell revelation that Gov. Ralph Northam’s early 1980s yearbook page from his Virginia medical school includes a photo of a person in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan dress.
Northam denies being in the photo and has resisted a wave of resignation calls from fellow Democrats, including 2020 presidential candidates.
Fairfax, also a Democrat and a descendant of a Virginia slave, is poised to assume the governorship should Northam vacate office, but he’s also been cast negatively by a woman who claims he sexually assaulted her in 2004.
He denied the claim in a statement that said it was “false and unsubstantiated,” and that his relationship with the woman was consensual.
His office in Richmond didn’t return requests for comment. Calls to Fairfax’s law office went unanswered, and Morrison & Foerster didn’t respond to request for comment.
After graduating from Columbia Law School in 2005, Fairfax clerked for Judge Gerald Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, followed by a stint at WilmerHale.
While at WilmerHale, Fairfax helped defend Education Loans Inc., a student loan company accused of claiming millions of dollars in excessive government payments. The suit eventually settled.
His next Big Law job was at Venable after working on Virginia Sen. Mark Warner’s reelection campaign in 2014. There, he was a member of the firm’s investigations and white collar defense and commercial litigation practices. He left that firm upon winning the election in 2017.
Brad Wine, co-chair of Morrison & Foerster’s litigation department, said when Fairfax was hired in 2018 that his “impressive background strengthens our national and regional commercial litigation, enforcement, and investigations capabilities.”
Fairfax also worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia after leaving WilmerHale in 2010.