After long wait, Smithfield’s Councill gets judgeship

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 29, 2008

RICHMOND—Isle of Wight Commonwealth’s Attorney W. Parker Councill will take over as the 5th Judicial District’s newest judge May 1.

During a special session on Wednesday, the Virginia General Assembly elected Councill and more than two dozen others to open judicial posts. Because of partisan bickering over the process, three Circuit Court seats in Norfolk and one in Virginia Beach remain open.

In the absence of an unexpected compromise, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will name temporary judges to fill those positions, and the Assembly will readdress the controversial judgeships next year.

Councill was one of four judges appointed to General District courts throughout Virginia on Wednesday. None was part of the controversy that swirled around the Hampton Roads Circuit Court appointments.

The Assembly had convened a special one-day session to discuss and vote on judicial appointments, bonds and capital improvements, items it was unable to complete during its regular session, which ended March 13. The legislature plans another special session in June to take up the issue of transportation funding.

Councill was elected during a session that stretched past 10 p.m. He will serve a six-year term and then be up for re-election by the General Assembly. Sixty years old at the time of his appointment, Councill is eligible to serve up to 10 years before mandatory retirement, under the state’s current laws governing judges.

He will take over the position vacated upon the retirement Dec. 31 of Judge Robert B. Edwards, another Smithfield attorney, who served as a District Court judge for 40 years.

The son of a Franklin farmer, Councill grew up on Clay Street in the city. He attended the University of Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. He served three years in the U.S. Army’s Second Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea. Returning stateside, he entered the UVA School of Law in 1973, earning his J.D. degree in 1976.

He practiced law as an associate in the firm of Delk and Barlow in Smithfield through 1970, when he left to take over his own practice in the space vacated by Edwards when Edwards became a full-time judge.

Councill was elected Commonwealth’s Attorney for Isle of Wight in 1983, when it was a part-time job.

He hired William H. Riddick III, also of Franklin, as an associate in his private practice in 1984 and in 1986 formed the firm of Barlow, Councill and Riddick with Riddick and William K. Barlow. He left that firm in 1992, when Barlow entered the House of Delegates.

Since 1991, the Commonwealth’s Attorney position has been a full-time job for Councill, who moved to Smithfield in 1976.

The 5th Judicial District includes the cities of Suffolk and Franklin and the counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton.