There will hopefully soon be a new judge serving Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.
With Westbrook Parker retiring from his position on the 5th District Circuit Court, Virginia’s General Assembly recently approved filling the now empty judgeship and will be responsible for selecting a new judge.
Rodham T. Delk Jr., who is currently the chief judge of the court, said that he was not aware of anyone who has shown interest in the position, which pays $163,000 per year. But William Barlow, who is a Democratic delegate in the General Assembly serving Smithfield and who sits on the Courts of Justice Committee, said that he knew of a handful of qualified people who might be interested in the job. Though he declined to name any of them at the moment.
In order to qualify for being a circuit court judge, a candidate must be a lawyer who currently lives in the 5th district. The candidate must also be under 70 years old. After they are initially selected by the assembly, judges on the circuit court serve terms consisting of 8 years.
The selection process is quite quick. One day after the assembly interviews a candidate, his or her election is put to a vote.
At the moment, control of the legislature in Virginia is split between Republicans and Democrats, with the former controlling the House while the latter controls the Senate. According to Del. Barlow, this makes the process of selecting a judge a little more “challenging.”
Still, Barlow insists that, when it comes to selecting to local judges, the legislature usually lets the local representatives choose someone. He added that he thinks that the current list of candidates he has for the position is “excellent,” and he feels very confident that the legislature will ultimately approve one of them.
However, there have been times when the legislature has been unable to come to an agreement on a judge. Barlow says that, if by chance the General Assembly is unable to select a candidate for the 5th District opening, there is a process in place that allows the governor to appoint a judge on a interim basis.
But the interim appointment is temporary, Barlow insists. He says that, if the governor makes such an appointment, the General Assembly reviews this appointment during the assembly’s next session. At this time, the assembly has two choices: either they can accept the governor’s appointment, which would mean that the interim appointment becomes permanent, or they can decide to replace the interim appointment with a judge of their own choosing.
Barlow says that sometimes filing one judgeship requires that they must fill another, which means that they must fill multiple appointments. He says that this typically happens when the General Assembly fills an opening for a circuit judge by selecting someone who is currently a district judge. In such cases, the assembly then must select someone to fill the district judgeship that has become open because of such an appointment.
Westbrook Parker served on the 5th District Circuit Court for 25 years before retiring. His retirement has left a big hole on the court, according to Rick Francis, who is a clerk working on the Southampton Circuit Court. Francis says that there is now only two judges currently sitting on the 5th District Circuit Court: Chief Judge Delk and Judge Carl Edward Eason Jr., who now have to handle all the additional workload. Though Francis says that a group of 8 substitute judges have been assisting the two men on cases that have come in front of the court since Parker’s retirement.
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