But after his second year of law school at George Mason University, an internship he had planned on fell through, and he was looking for something to do. He asked to work for free for the Alexandria commonwealth’s attorney. The office agreed.
“A bell went off,” he said. “I loved every second of it. I knew at that point I wanted to be a prosecutor for the foreseeable future.”
Looking back, Jarvis said, what he loves about the job is that “you have the ability to do right every single day” in seeking justice. He said that he has made mistakes but that he generally doesn’t try to look for punishment. He said he tries to look for solutions.
Those sitting at the opposite table agree. “The biggest word you could put in capital letters [about Jarvis] is ‘ethical,’ ” said defense lawyer Mark Crossland, who attended the investiture ceremony.
Jarvis started in Prince William in 2002, just as Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D) and other experienced prosecutors were ramping up on the prosecution of the D.C. sniper case, crimes that had drawn national attention for their randomness and brutality.
With the veterans focused on that case, Jarvis was asked to quickly assume a larger role by taking on the bulk of the other homicides. He was already an experienced prosecutor when he came to the county, having worked under Commonwealth’s Attorney David Grimes in Pittsylvania County, Va., and as a prosecutor in Ocala, Fla., where he largely worked on child sex abuse cases.
Recently, Jarvis oversaw the prosecution of Joshua W. Andrews, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing two people in Dumfries in 2002, and Natalia Wilson, who killed her husband’s ex-wife and son. Wilson also received life in prison.
Jarvis was also involved in helping prosecute a man accused of a triple homicide in Manassas, a case he will have to relinquish.
“I have never woken up in the morning and said I don’t want to come to work,” he said. “I have not slept because of horrible things people have done to each other.”
Aside from losing an experienced hand, Ebert said that Jarvis was seen as a keystone in the office, someone who could always help sort through complex legal issues.
“He’s had a lot of experience, and he’s got a sound sense of judgment,” he said.
As Jarvis takes the bench next week, ruling on the kinds of disparate cases that come before a District Court judge — lawsuits, criminal misdemeanors and traffic violations — the moment is bittersweet. He will no longer have the same kinds of relationships with fellow prosecutors or law enforcement.
But he hopes to be accessible. He said outside interests and his background will help him stay grounded in a job in which decisions and rulings are often final.
Much of his job as a prosecutor, he said, was to separate “the knuckleheads from the truly criminal.” He will have a similar role as a judge but will also have a duty “to call balls and strikes.”
He hopes his life has prepared him. “At the end of the day, you have to exercise your own judgment.”