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  • Business Law/Commercial Litigation

  • Real Estate Litigation

  • Eminent Domain


  • J.D., University of Virginia School of Law (1994)

  • B.S., Williams College (1990)

    • Economics (major)

Bar Admissions

  • Virginia (1994)

  • Eastern District of Virginia

  • Western District of Virginia

  • Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit

  • District of Columbia (1995)

  • District of Columbia District Court

  • Maryland (2000)

  • District Court of Maryland


  • Member, Virginia State Senate (2007-present)

  • State Delegate (2002-2006)

  • City Councilman (1998-2002)

  • Virginia State Bar Association

  • Fairfax Bar Association

Past Employment Positions

  • Bracewell & Giuliani LLP (Associate and Partner)

  • Surovell, Isaacs, Petersen & Levy PLC (Partner)

John Chapman “Chap” Petersen is licensed to practice law in Virginia, Maryland,
and the District of Columbia.  In 30 years as a trial attorney, Chap Petersen has
successfully tried hundreds of cases in state and Federal courts around the
United States. He also served 16 years as a State Senator, during which time he
authored several major pieces of legislation. Finally, Mr. Petersen serves as an
adjunct professor at George Mason University (Scalia) School of law, where he
teaches American Constitutional Law.


Awards:  In 2017, the Fairfax County Bar Association awarded Mr. Petersen its “President’s Award” for his leadership in the community.  In 2011, the Virginia Lawyers Weekly selected Mr. Petersen as a “Leader in the Law,” one of thirty (30) lawyers recognized for outstanding accomplishments.  In 2021, he was named “Lawmaker of the Year” by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce for his efforts to protect small businesses during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Here's are the highlights of his legal and political career:


Civil Rights:  In June 2020, Mr. Petersen filed a lawsuit, Park v. Northam, which legally challenged the state’s “COVID19 shutdown” for violating the Virginia and United States Constitutions.  The next year, as a State Senator, Mr. Petersen led the fight to pass SB 1303 which required Virginia public schools to reopen, after being closed for a year for in-person education.  Finally, in 2022, as a State Senator, Mr. Petersen authored the text of SB 739, which ended the “mask mandate” on children in Virginia public schools.  The passage of this legislation ended COVID19 restrictions in Virginia and returned children to normal after two years of lockdowns.  

Major Verdicts: In 2011, Mr. Petersen won a $9.85 million verdict in a securities fraud case, Sanford v. SCG International LLC, one of Virginia’s “Top Ten Verdicts of the Year.”  In 2012, a jury in Salt Lake City, Utah, returned a verdict for $133.9 million in Spring Canyon, LLC v. PacifiCorp, based upon a trade secrets case that Mr. Petersen investigated and filed.  In 2015, Mr. Petersen won a judgment (In re Sadeq) in Federal court for $2.6 million for an international embezzlement.  From 2019 forward, Mr. Petersen represented three  Virginia counties in the class action against drug companies which produced and distributed “Opioids.”  In 2021, the class action settled for a recovery equaling billions of dollars.

Eminent Domain: The Petersen firm specializes in recoveries under the state’s eminent domain laws.   In 2015, Mr. Petersen won a Fairfax County jury verdict in Commissioner of Highways v. Second Holly Knolls for ten times the settlement offer.  In 2016, Mr. Petersen secured a $1.2 million settlement for a Prince William County client who lost land and signage to VDOT.  Commissioner of Highways v. Gupta.  In 2020, he secured a settlement of $1.275 million for a car wash impacted by highway condemnation.  Prince William County v. SGT Kang, LLC.   Currently he is representing clients whose properties are being condemned as part of the Route One widening in Fairfax County. 

Environmental Protection: The Petersen firm has filed multiple lawsuits to protect the environmental legacy of Virginia, including actions to prevent the building of massive “data centers” on land bordering the historic Manassas Battlefield in Prince William County.  These actions are pending.

Appeals Practice: Mr. Petersen has won major appellate victories, such as Park v. HHH Landmark, LLC (2008), which protects the rights of retail tenants in commercial leases, Nahigian v. Juno-Loudoun LLC(2012), which allowed a Virginia couple to rescind a $1.7 million land purchase, and Sharma v. USA International, LLC (2017) which permits small business owners to opine on the value of their business.


In 2018, the Virginia Supreme Court in Mr. Petersen’s case, Grace of God Presbyterian Church , upheld the right of Virginia churches to hold and sell property. In 2019, in the appeal of Handberg v. Goldberg, he successfully reversed a defamation verdict.   In 2020, the Petersen team won an interlocutory appeal that clarified the rights of landowners in a condemnation.  SGT Kang’s Group v. Prince William County.  

International Practice:  Mr. Petersen has represented clients in matters arising in Korea, Afghanistan, Trinidad, Pakistan, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Turkey and Dubai. In Shenzhen ANT Hi-Tech v. MISI (2017), Mr. Petersen won a Federal jury verdict in Detroit, Michigan on behalf of a Chinese manufacturer of medical products.   In Choi v. Park (2006), Mr. Petersen won a Federal jury verdict in Virginia in a defamation case conducted entirely in Korean. 

In 2018, Mr. Petersen defended a Korean client facing up to 80 years in prison based on allegations of criminal fraud, which spanned two continents.  After a week-long trial, a Fairfax County jury acquitted the Defendant. Commonwealth v. Park.  


In 2020, the Petersen team  defended a five-count Federal lawsuit accusing a Korean-American shopping center owner of racial discrimination; the matter was dismissed on summary judgment. Mamadou et al. v. Cho et al., 1:20-cv-146-AJT-IDD, (E.D. Va., Nov. 6, 2020)

Community: For 16 years, Mr. Petersen represented Fairfax County as a State Senator.  During that time, he was the Chairman of Civil Laws, as well as the Chairman of Agriculture and Natural Resources and a senior member of the Finance Committee.  He also served as the Vice-Chair of the Democratic Caucus (2015-2019).  Previously, he served as State Delegate and City Councilman in his hometown of Fairfax City.

Personal Mr. Petersen is a graduate of Fairfax High School (1986), Williams College (1990) and the University of Virginia Law School (1994).  He is a lifelong member of Truro Anglican Church and has coached football and basketball for the Fairfax Police Youth Club. He is a life member of the Northern Virginia Rugby Football Club and also plays with the Virginia Cardinals, an “over-50” rugby team that has won the national championship three times.        

He and his wife Sharon have four children, mostly grown, and live in Fairfax City.


Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case and do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case undertaken by the lawyer.

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