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Va. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax departs law firm; was on leave amid sexual assault allegations

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) presides over the Senate session at the Capitol in February 2019.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) presides over the Senate session at the Capitol in February 2019. (Steve Helber/AP)
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Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) said Monday he is resigning as a partner at the law firm Morrison & Foerster, where he was placed on leave earlier this year amid years-ago allegations of sexual assault.

Two women publicly accused Fairfax in February of assaulting them in the early 2000s. Fairfax has denied their allegations and said his sexual encounters with them were consensual.

The law firm Morrison & Foerster, which hired Fairfax last year as a partner in its trials, commercial litigation and investigations and white-collar defense group, placed Fairfax on leave when the allegations emerged and retained outside counsel to investigate him.

The probe found no evidence of misconduct by Fairfax in his brief tenure at the firm, he and the law firm said Monday, but Fairfax still resigned.

“It has been an honor to be affiliated with such a distinguished firm as Morrison & Foerster, and I wanted to allow them to conclude their investigation before announcing my departure from the firm,” Fairfax said in a prepared statement. “But with that process completed, I have decided that, at the present time, it is best for me to focus my attention on serving the people of Virginia.”

A spokesman for the law firm confirmed Fairfax’s account in a statement.

“The investigation conducted by the firm found neither allegations nor evidence of any wrongdoing by Justin during his tenure at the firm,” the Morrison & Foerster spokesman said. “With the conclusion of our investigation, Justin’s leave of absence has ended. Justin has informed us, however, that he has decided to leave the firm and we respect that decision.”

Lieutenant governors are part-time officeholders in Virginia, and many have held outside jobs. Fairfax earns about $36,000 a year for his government position.

Morrison & Foerster did not investigate the allegations against Fairfax made by Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson.

Tyson, now a college professor in California, accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex after they met at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Watson said Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2000, when they were undergraduates at Duke University.

Both women have urged the Virginia General Assembly to hold hearings on their allegations, but Democratic legislative leaders have resisted. Fairfax has said he would welcome an investigation by law enforcement authorities.

Republicans have called for hearings on the sexual allegations against Fairfax next week, when the legislature reconvenes for a special session on gun violence.

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