Lawyer earns seat on the bench

Published 10:27 pm Monday, March 16, 2009

The second Suffolk native appointed to a Hampton Roads judgeship in February said his ambition since law school has been to sit on the bench.

“It’s something I decided I wanted to do while I was in law school,” said Philip Infantino III, who attended Washington & Lee University School of Law, graduating in 1991.

His aspiration to the bench developed as he worked for local law firm Pender & Coward during the summers while he was in law school, he said.

Email newsletter signup

“At that time, I decided I did not enjoy the practice part of law as much as I did the intellectual kind of law,” he said.

In practicing law, Infantino said, it is sometimes difficult to reconcile personal beliefs with a client’s best interest. He has concentrated almost exclusively on eminent domain law during his career.

“Everything you do is adversarial,” he said. “You have to take a position whether you believe in it or not.”

By contrast, being a judge will allow him to be in the position of studying the law and determining the intent of the law.

“I just like reading law and figuring out, ‘What’s justice, what’s right?’” he said. If he had never made it to the bench, he would likely have wound up being a law professor at a university, he said.

Infantino watched the General Assembly vote on his appointment via Internet on Feb. 28. He will take the bench in Chesapeake’s General District Court on April 1 – earlier than most other new judges, since his seat has been open since November. In fact, he already has been substituting as a judge in that position, anyway.

“It should be a rather smooth transition,” he said. “They needed to get somebody in there pretty quick.”

Suffolk attorney Dave Arnold will take over Infantino’s cases.

“I’m very excited to serve,” Infantino said. “It’s a great honor.”