Circuit bench still empty

Published 1:44 pm Saturday, April 6, 2013


Members of the General Assembly failed to come to an agreement this week on a new judge for the Fifth Circuit, which includes Southampton and Isle of Wight counties and the cities of Franklin and Suffolk.

Former Suffolk City Councilman Robert Barclay, Assistant Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Sandwich and Suffolk City Attorney Helivi Holland were interviewed for the position.

“We did not come to an agreement, so we did not have a name to submit,” Delegate S. Chris Jones, R-76th, said by phone Friday.

Jones said the Fifth Circuit position was not the only one that remained unfilled when the General Assembly finished its work late Wednesday. A handful of others in Hampton Roads remained empty as well.

The governor has the authority to make interim appointments for empty benches, which could then be confirmed during the General Assembly’s next session.

Jones said he put Sandwich’s name forward. A prosecutor for more than 10 years who also did a brief stint in a private law firm in Suffolk, Sandwich was one of two prosecutors who handled the case of Joe Staton, who savagely beat Suffolk Police Officer James Winslow, Jones’ nephew, after a traffic stop last year.

“I was very impressed with his professionalism in his handling of James’ case,” said Jones, who was in court during Staton’s plea and sentencing. “I was impressed with him as a prosecutor, as an attorney, and felt he would do a wonderful job as a member of the bench.”

The interviews were held in an attempt to fill the bench vacated in January by the mandatory retirement of Judge William R. Savage III, who had been promoted from the Fifth Judicial District in 2011.

Jones said Barclay was placed on the interview list by Sen. Louise Lucas, who did not return an e-mail seeking comment Friday. Barclay served as an officer in the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps and later joined the Cooper, Spong & Davis firm in 1993. He served on the Suffolk City Council from 2009 to 2012.

Holland has worked as a prosecutor in the Portsmouth and Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s offices, where she prosecuted juvenile crimes. She was an adjunct professor at Paul D. Camp Community College and a deputy city attorney in Suffolk. In 2010, Gov. Bob McDonnell tapped her to lead the state Department of Juvenile Justice, which she did for almost two years before coming back to Suffolk as the city attorney.

“I was humbled by that opportunity,” Holland said of the interview, declining to talk further. Delegate Matthew James confirmed that he introduced Holland’s name to the process.

Barclay did not return a Friday afternoon phone call, and Sandwich declined to speak on the record.

Though legislators could not agree on a Circuit Court judge, they reappointed General District Court Judge James Moore to his position as a judge in the Fifth Judicial District.