Parker won’t be replaced

Published 9:34 pm Saturday, March 20, 2010

The planned retirement of a Circuit Court judge has left a hole in the local court system.

The budget passed by the General Assembly last week does not provide any money to replace Judge Westbrook Parker, whose retirement is effective June 30.

The move likely will create a backlog in the court system, said Clerk of Circuit Court Randy Carter — and Parker may not get to fully enjoy his retirement right away.

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“What happens when he goes away is that the regular sitting judges will have to spend more hours here, and we’ll probably have to utilize retired judges more,” Carter said. Retired judges get paid a daily rate for their service, as well as mileage costs and a meal stipend, Carter said. Parker could be one of those called for service when the other two judges on the circuit — Carl Eason Jr. and Rodham Delk Jr. — cannot be in the courtroom.

“He might be back here some,” Carter said.

The Fifth Judicial Circuit includes the cities of Suffolk and Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties. Suffolk alone handled 2,375 criminal cases and 1,232 civil cases in 2009.

The unfilled seat likely will not affect a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, Carter said.

“It won’t affect that, because the law says that criminal cases have precedence, and they can’t get bumped because of civil trials,” he said said.

Civil cases, however, probably will be settled out of court more than they normally are.

“We will probably see more settlement conferences and mediations take place,” he said. “We utilize those things now quite a bit, but in criminal cases you can’t do that.”

Carter said the Circuit Court will see longer court days because of the loss.

“It is a tough situation,” he said. “You have a rising case load, and you lose one-third of your workforce, in essence.

“It’s going to be tough.”