Archived Story

Sandwich was a good choice

Published 10:26pm Friday, July 19, 2013

Almost seven months after the age-related mandatory retirement of Suffolk Circuit Court Judge William R. Savage III, Virginia’s Fifth Judicial Circuit has a new judge. It was a long and somewhat torturous process, but in the end, the new judge doesn’t have far to go to take the elevated seat in Suffolk Circuit Court.

Robert H. Sandwich Jr. has been arguing cases before the bench in Suffolk since 2007, serving nearly all of that time as a member of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s prosecutorial team. His appointment to the bench is a temporary one, which must be approved by the General Assembly in its 2014 session.

The Assembly could have appointed Sandwich this year — he was one of three lawyers interviewed for the job in April — but legislators failed to reach an agreement on the candidates, so the initial appointment fell to Gov. Bob McDonnell, who announced his decision this week. Sandwich was one of three circuit court judges appointed by the governor. Legislators will be asked to endorse those interim appointments when they reconvene next year.

There are good arguments against Virginia’s law requiring judges to retire at the age of 70, and, in fact, there are perennial efforts to raise that retirement age. People tend to live longer and have better physical and mental health today than they did when the requirement was codified into state law. Judge Savage was an excellent example of a jurist who remained sharp and eminently capable even as he was forced to step down from his post. The loss of his experience on the bench was a blow to the judicial system, though he has continued to serve as a substitute judge since his retirement.

But given the existing rules, McDonnell chose well in his appointment of Sandwich. After completing a Bachelor of Arts degree and receiving his law degree from the University of Georgia, Sandwich moved to Virginia, where he served about two years each in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s offices of Portsmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach before landing in the Suffolk office in August 2007. He is also a U.S. Navy veteran, having served more than eight years after enlisting.

Sandwich is well respected in legal circles, and he had the support of the Suffolk Bar Association in his bid to become a judge. McDonnell had high praise for him and the other judges he appointed to their respective posts, calling them “talented lawyers who will continue to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth well in these new roles.”

Suffolk will miss having William Savage sitting on the bench in Circuit Court. But the city will be well served by his replacement.

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