Arlington Bar Foundation lauds compassion, quiet strength of judge

Judge George Varoutsos (right) of the 17th District Juvenile and Domestic Relations General District Court receives the Arlington Bar Foundation's William L. Winston Award from Mark Cummings during a Nov. 26, 2019, ceremony at Washington Golf & Country Club. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

Judge George Varoutsos describes himself as an “over-achieving Forrest Gump” who’s had great friends and colleagues and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

After receiving the William L. Winston Award from Arlington County Bar Foundation Nov. 26 at Washington Golf & Country Club, the judge thanked the court’s clerks and assistants for making him look good, deciphering his illegible handwriting and laughing at his jokes. He affirmed he goes to work eagerly each day and leaves happy.

“When you’re trying to get it right and sort out people’s problems . . . you can feel good about what you’re doing and [attempt] to get others to follow the right path,” said Varoutsos, chief judge of the 17th District Juvenile and Domestic Relations General District Court.

The foundation in 1990 created the award, named after the late chief judge of the Arlington County Circuit Court, to honor and recognize Northern Virginia community members whose long-standing public service has promoted democratic ideals and advancement of the rule of law.

“Bottom line, he is as generous a contributor to this bar, to this legal community and to this foundation as anyone I know,” David Bell, former clerk of the Arlington Circuit Court, said of Varoutsos. “Judge Winston would very much approve.”

Mark Cummings, a director of the bar foundation, presented Varoutsos with the award, which consisted of a framed etching of Gen. Alexander Macomb’s pencil sketch of Arlington House.

“George, you have been a beacon to all of us,” Cummings said. “We are drawn to your quiet strength, your humble compassion, your dedication to the Arlington community.”

Varoutsos grew up not far from Washington Golf & Country Club and joked that he had not gone very far in life, just across Glebe Road.

Varoutsos earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Richmond, then clerked for Judge Oren Lewis of the Eastern District of Virginia. He subsequently became an associate at the law firm of Varoutsos, Koutoulakos, Arthur and Dolan, then ran his own firm from 1976 to 1998, specializing in civil and criminal litigation.

Having served as a substitute judge for the Arlington Circuit Court between 1987 and 1998, Varoutsos was elected by the General Assembly in 1998 to serve as a judge in the Arlington Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. He has served three six-year terms and was elected to his fourth in 2016.

Varoutsos furthered development of a driver’s-license program for young motorists to impress upon them the serious responsibilities they are undertaking behind the wheel, Bell said.

Judge Varoutsos has received multiple honors over the course of his career, including the Arlington County Bar Foundation’s President’s Award in 1992 and its Distinguished Service Award in 2003, University of Richmond Distinguished Service Award in 1999, Yorktown High School Hall of Fame award in 2004 and the Arlington Community Foundation’s Spirit of Community Award in 2011.

Varoutsos helped found the Arlington County Bar Foundation and served as its president in 1988-89. He also was involved in the founding of the Arlington Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program in 2005, National Center for Family Law in 2007 and Arlington Safe Haven Visitation Exchange Program in 2019.

Speakers at the award ceremony highlighted Varoutsos’ passion for sports, including his attendance at the last 29 Super Bowls.

“My bucket list is empty,” Varoutsos said. “First, the Nationals win the World Series, and now this accolade. It really doesn’t get any better than this.”

The judge’s daughter, Christine Yiannarakis, said her father is not fond of public speaking and is the definition of laconic, preferring to say a lot with just a few words.

Yiannarakis noted her father’s grandparents had come from Sparta, where the word laconic was derived from “Laconia,” a region of ancient Greece “where Spartan rulers were known for giving short, but deep, speeches.”

Yiannarakis told of her father’s love of baseball, his being inspired by his lawyer father, his studying of American history and his assumption of actor Chevy Chase’s role in the family’s “Griswold” trips to far-flung parts of the country, including the Grand Canyon, Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Varoutsos still enjoys going to work daily and brings levelheadedness and discernment to a job some might find emotionally draining, she said.

“In my visits to his courtroom, I am blessed with admiration for his ability to determine the best course of action in difficult family situations that are complicated and where all possible paths are very complex,” Yiannarakis said.

The judge likes to help and take a chance on others, and always encourages those who are considering law careers, she said.

Yiannarakis did not follow her father into law, but instead teaches Spanish at The Potomac School in McLean. Her work, like his, helps children and their families, she said.

Varoutsos recalled how his daughter, who attended his alma mater, called from college to inform him she wanted to be a teacher and not a lawyer, but would go to law school if he preferred and would excel there.

“Well, Christine, you’re doing what you want to do and I am so proud of you,” he told her at the ceremony.

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