Filling local judgeship prioritized

Published 10:52 am Saturday, December 15, 2012


RICHMOND—Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed $3.7 million in state funding to fill vacant judgeships, including for the Fifth District Circuit Court that serves Southampton and Isle of Wight counties and Suffolk.

Judge W.R. Savage III in January will retire from the bench, said Isle of Wight County Clerk of Courts Sharon Jones. Savage replaced Westbrook Parker, who retired in 2010.

“The Supreme Court’s recommendation is that the position be filled,” Jones said.

The Fifth District’s other judges are Rodham Delk and Carl Eason Jr. Savage, Delk and Eason take turns hearing cases in the two counties and Suffolk.

“Vacant judgeships in recent years have put an undue burden on certain districts and circuits,” McDonnell said in a news release. “By providing new state support to fund these eight district courts judgeships, two juvenile and domestic relations district courts judgeships, and five circuit court judgeships, we will alleviate the burden on judges in these jurisdictions and help ensure swift justice and the right to a speedy trial for Virginians.”

To fill the judgeship, the General Assembly would have to include the funding in the state budget when it starts meeting in January, said Jeff Caldwell, spokesman for the governor’s office.

“They would have the option of filling it if it is funded,” Caldwell said.

Southampton County Clerk of Courts Rick Francis said he if funded, he expects it would take about six months to fill the judgeship. Francis is optimistic about the funding coming through.

“Depending on the urgency and politics of all making the call, I would expect it will be filled,” he said. “I cannot see with the workload that we have (that it would not). It certainly would be helpful for my office if was filled sooner than later.”

In the meantime, retired judges will hear cases, which they routinely do to meet the caseload.

“The other day we had three judges in one day to wrap up cases,” Francis said.