About Judge Merhige

Judge MerhigeThe Honorable Judge Robert R. Merhige, Jr. graduated from the University of Richmond School of Law in 1942 and went on to lead a distinguished career in the bar and on the bench. The Robert R. Merhige, Jr. Center for Environmental Studies honors his work in environmental law.

Merhige began his legal career after three years of service with the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He practiced law until 1967, when he was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

On the bench, Merhige decided controversial cases, including more than forty school desegregation cases, the Westinghouse uranium contracts litigation, the civil suit arising out of the deaths and injuries in the Ku Klux Klan and Communist Worker's Party incident in Greensboro, N.C., the bankruptcy reorganization plan of the A.H. Robins Co., and the creation and administration of the Dalkon Shield Claimants Trust.

In the environmental field, Merhige is best known for the Kepone litigation––a criminal case against Allied Chemical related to discharge of toxic pesticide chemicals into the James River. In 1977, Merhige fined Allied $13.2 million for violating the Clean Water Act. With the approval of Merhige, a portion of this fine––$8 million––was paid by Allied to fund the creation of the Virginia Environmental Endowment for the purpose of improving the quality of Virginia's environment. The Virginia Environmental Endowment and other donors provided the initial funds for the law school’s Merhige Center for Environmental Studies in 1985.

Merhige served on the bench for thirty-one years. He received the law school’s William Green Award for Outstanding Professionalism in 1989 and the University’s Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 1979. He died in 2005.