Brewbaker for circuit judge

Published 9:13 am Friday, March 18, 2011

The circuit judgeship vacated by veteran Chief Judge Westbrook Parker has remained open for the past year as a cost-saving move by the General Assembly. Lawmakers last month approved funds to fill the post come July 1, but a potentially worse outcome now faces the citizens of Franklin and Southampton County: the lack, for the first time in recent memory, of a resident circuit judge in this community of more than 25,000 people.

Funds having been approved, the General Assembly now must appoint someone to fill Parker’s seat, and all signs point toward the new judge coming from the more populous eastern side of the 5th Judicial District, which encompasses Franklin, Southampton County, Isle of Wight County and Suffolk.

The district’s two current judges reside in Suffolk and Isle of Wight County, respectively. Fairness and geographic balance suggest strongly that Parker, a Franklin resident, should be succeeded by a resident of Franklin/Southampton. The case for having a local judge becomes even more persuasive with the availability of Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Robert S. Brewbaker Jr. of Franklin for appointment to the Circuit Court.

Brewbaker has served the bench with integrity, dedication and wisdom. Because Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is a low-profile institution and largely out of the public eye, Brewbaker does not often make headlines with his rulings and actions on the bench. Few citizens have the opportunity to see him in action. To a person, however, attorneys who argue cases in Brewbaker’s court speak to his even temperament, his fair-mindedness and the diligence with which he approaches the job — all desirable qualities for one who administers justice.

Unfortunately, Western Tidewater’s waning political clout in Richmond is hurting Brewbaker’s chances of a circuit appointment. Since the retirement of the late state Delegate Paul Councill, who served his community and region with great effectiveness in Richmond for many years, Franklin and Southampton County have not had a resident state legislator. That lack of representation is especially harmful when it comes to filling judicial vacancies like Parker’s seat.

The power broker in the General Assembly’s choice of a Parker successor is state Delegate Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, who does not have a constituency in Franklin or Southampton County. State Sen. Louise Lucas, a Democrat who will also have a strong say in who is appointed, represents portions of Franklin and Southampton but resides in Portsmouth. Neither has loyalty to Franklin and Southampton County.

Still, area citizens would be wise to contact their delegates and senators and ask them to work hard when the General Assembly reconvenes next month to ensure that Franklin and Southampton County retain resident representation on the Circuit Court. Robert S. Brewbaker Jr. is the ideal choice to succeed Westbrook Parker.