Suffolk appointee means no resident circuit judge for Franklin/Southampton

Published 10:01 am Saturday, April 30, 2011

By Tracy Agnew/Suffolk News-Herald

SUFFOLK—Two Suffolk men were among 14 new judges appointed Thursday by the Virginia General Assembly.

Current General District Court Judge William R. Savage III was tapped to move up to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court, filling a seat vacated by Judge Westbrook Parker’s retirement last year.

Savage’s appointment to succeed Parker, a Franklin resident, means that Franklin and Southampton County, for the first time in recent memory, will not have a resident circuit judge.

Filling Savage’s seat in General District Court will be Alfred W. Bates III, a Suffolk resident who currently works as a deputy city attorney in Portsmouth.

The Fifth Judicial District encompasses Suffolk, Franklin, and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.

Lawmakers set aside $3.7 million to pay for 21 of the 29 empty judge seats scattered throughout the state. However, some seats were not filled because legislators could not agree on a candidate or were notified of available funding so late they did not have time to conduct a proper interview process.

Circuit Court judges earn $184,000 a year in salary and benefits and serve eight-year terms. General District judges make $162,252 and serve six-year terms.

Delegate Bill Barlow of Smithfield said he was pleased with the both appointments.

“I have known Mr. Savage for a long time,” Barlow said. “I’m sure he’ll do an excellent job. I’m pleased we’ll be back to a full strength Circuit Court by having all three judges, rather than having two and them having to carry a bigger caseload.”

Barlow said he does not know Bates as well but was impressed with his experience.

“He’s been practicing law for some time,” Barlow said. “He has a considerable amount of trial experience in a variety of different types of trials. He has an excellent reputation, and I’m confident he will do a good job.”

Judges are nominated by lawmakers from the area who represent the majority party each house. In this case, that meant Savage and Bates were nominated by Delegate S. Chris Jones, a Republican, and Democratic Sen. Louise Lucas.