F. Jefferson ‘Jeff’ James embraces the title of Retiree

Published 9:00 am Friday, February 2, 2024

It was an afternoon filled with laughs and tears as Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney F. Jefferson “Jeff” James received his new title: Retiree. Suffolk law and elected officials joined in honoring James during his retirement celebration at the City of Suffolk Courthouse on Friday, January 26. 

Serving the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office for 38 years, James began his prosecution career in Portsmouth in 1982, handling violent cases and leading the drug team. Upon arriving in Suffolk in 1994, James took on various cases ranging from arson, homicides and DUIs. Serving his community, James has participated in the Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad as a lifetime member, the Virginia High School League as a Football Official, and as a member of Lawyers Helping Lawyers and more. Of all his titles, however, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Heather Emmert said her favorite for James is “friend” when she provided remarks at the celebration.

“If you ask anyone in our office, they will inevitably use the words in describing Jeff [as] a gentleman. He’s a family man, he’s funny, he’s nice, he’s kind and he’s caring,” Emmert said warmly of her colleague.

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James’s legal assistant, Lori Atkins, humorously reflected on her years working with him.

“I can honestly say that Jeff has kept me on my toes [and] it has been an adventure,” Atkins said. “It has been a pleasure working with you, Jeff. Congratulations, and enjoy your retirement. You deserve it.”

After many laughs as colleagues reflected on their time with James, Commonwealth’s Attorney Narendra R. Pleas, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Susan Walton and Chief Deputy David Miles each presented commemorative awards to him for his service. Walton, who presented a poem, emotionally honored her colleague.

“He has a heart of gold, [he’s] a genuinely good person and to have him as a coworker and friend is a blast. If there’s a person that Jeff hasn’t done a favor for, it’s only because they haven’t asked,” Walton said. “Therefore, I ask that you all rise as we honor a man whose distinguished career as a prosecutor has regretfully reached the end. As we show our respect and admiration to Franklin Jefferson James – our esteemed colleague and friend.”

James tearfully thanked his colleagues and attending family, saying the moment was “bittersweet.”

“My whole identity has been as a prosecutor. I’ve tried to do it well. I’ve tried to do it ethically, with integrity,” he said.

Following the ceremony, Pleas commented and agreed that the celebration is bittersweet.

“I started here in 2023, and Jeff was one of the permanent fixtures here and he had been for some time. So it’s very bittersweet that he’s leaving, but he’s put in [over] 30 years here. He worked in Portsmouth, he worked in private practice, he’s definitely earned this so we’re happy for him for that reason, but we’re sad to lose a colleague.”

Likewise, James commented on what he’s got planned in his new journey in retirement.

“Read all the books that I wanted to read,” he said warmly. “Spend time with my grandchildren, go to the gym religiously like I used to, and just enjoy life.”