Judge Penney Azcarate is a Circuit Court Judge in Fairfax County, Virginia and a 1998 Scalia Law graduate with a long history of public service. After enrolling in the ROTC program at Old Dominion University, Judge Azcarate served four years active duty with the United States Marine Corps and several more in the reserves while attending law school. After graduating from George Mason, she became an assistant Commonwealth Attorney for five years before entering private practice. In 2008, Judge Azcarate was elected by the General Assembly to serve on the General District Court Bench where she became the first female Chief Judge. In 2015, Judge Azcarate was elevated to the Fairfax County Circuit Court.
During her tenure on the bench, Judge Azcarate spearheaded the initiative to create the first Veterans Treatment Docket in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a specialty court designed to treat Veterans suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues. During her tenure in General District Court, Jude Azcarate began to see a pattern of Veterans coming before her on criminal charges with no prior criminal history. She recognized the need to provide the resources necessary for Veterans to transition back to civilian life and receive treatment for various mental health and substance abuse issues that are often a result of the stress of their military service and a contributing factor to their subsequent criminal charges. The VTD serves Veterans who have committed non-violent misdemeanor and felony offenses, facilitating treatment and mentorship programs, as well as providing other resources designed to reintegrate them into the community. Today, Fairfax County has established a Veterans Treatment Docket in each of its three courts, General District, Juvenile and Domestic Relations and Circuit Court.
In offering advice to law students, Judge Azcarate emphasizes the importance of gaining as much practical experience as possible during their law school careers, whether as a summer intern, part-time job, or externship. She emphasizes the importance of making connections and networking through these experiences to maximize career opportunities.