IOW prosecutor tapped for bench

Published 11:04 am Saturday, September 20, 2014

By Tracy Agnew/Suffolk News Herald
Special to The Tidewater News

SMITHFIELD—The commonwealth’s attorney in Isle of Wight County has been selected as the newest judge in the Fifth Circuit.

Wayne Farmer, 44, will fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Rodham Delk. The Fifth Circuit covers the circuit courts in Suffolk, Franklin, and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.

“I am feeling extremely honored,” Farmer said Friday after the General Assembly voted Thursday. “I’m looking forward to it, and I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to serve in the Fifth Circuit.”

Farmer has been commonwealth’s attorney for six years. He ran for election in 2008 to fill three years of a term left by the prior commonwealth’s attorney, who also was appointed to the bench.

He then ran for re-election in 2011 and won.

Prior to becoming commonwealth’s attorney, he was in private practice for 12 years as a member and president of the law firm Saunders Barlow Riddick and Babineau.

“It was a general practice, so I did a lot of different things,” Farmer said. “I focused primarily on criminal defense work, domestic relations law, some real estate law.”

Farmer said he believes his broad experience will inform his work on the bench.

“I hope the fact I’ve got a breadth of experience in different areas of the law will assist me,” Farmer said. “Obviously, as a Circuit Court judge, you face a number of different types of cases.” While his term starts Dec. 1, Farmer’s work in Isle of Wight County will be limited for some time.

“I obviously will be unable to hear any criminal case that began or was charged while I was commonwealth’s attorney,” he noted.

Farmer is a graduate of James Madison University and of William and Mary Law School. He’s a lifelong resident of Isle of Wight County and lives there with his wife and their two sons.

Colleagues of Farmer lauded his selection.

“I’m pleased the General Assembly went ahead and filled this Circuit Court position,” Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Phil Ferguson said. “We needed it for this circuit.

“Wayne Farmer is certainly a very competent and capable lawyer, and I have no doubt he will make an outstanding judge.”

Ferguson added that Farmer’s primary areas of practice — criminal law and domestic relations — make up a large part of the work of a Circuit Court judge. Ferguson also said the Suffolk, Isle of Wight and Southampton County bar associations all had endorsed Farmer.

“I think that fact indicates he had widespread support,” Ferguson said.

Suffolk attorney Whitney Saunders, who worked with Farmer at Saunders Barlow Riddick and Babineau, also applauded Farmer.

“He’s very, very forthright and honest and would do a great job,” Saunders said. “He’s had the breadth of experience.”