Two judges tapped for area courts

Published 11:15 pm Friday, April 29, 2011

Two Suffolk men were among the 14 new judges appointed Thursday by the Virginia General Assembly.

Current General District Court Judge William R. Savage III was tapped to move up to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court, filling a seat vacated by Judge Westbrook Parker’s retirement last year.

Filling Savage’s bench on the Fifth Judicial District will be Alfred W. Bates III, a Suffolk resident who currently works as a deputy city attorney in Portsmouth.

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The Fifth Circuit and District encompass Suffolk, Franklin, and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.

Lawmakers set aside $3.7 million to pay for 21 of the 29 empty judge seats scattered throughout the state. However, some seats were not filled because legislators could not agree on a candidate or were notified of available funding so late they did not have time to conduct a proper interview process.

Circuit Court judges earn $184,000 a year in salary and benefits and serve eight-year terms. General District judges make $162,252 and serve six-year terms.

Delegate Bill Barlow of Smithfield said he was pleased with the outcome of both decisions.

“I have known Mr. Savage for a long time,” Barlow said. “I’m sure he’ll do an excellent job. I’m pleased we’ll be back to a full strength Circuit Court by having all three judges, rather than having two and them having to carry a bigger caseload.”

Barlow said he does not know Bates as well but was impressed with his experience.

“He’s been practicing law for some time,” Barlow said. “He has a considerable amount of trial experience in a variety of different types of trials. He has an excellent reputation, and I’m confident he will do a good job.”

Judges are nominated by lawmakers from the area who represent the majority party in each house. In this case, that meant Savage and Bates were nominated by Delegate S. Chris Jones, a Republican, and Democratic Senator Louise Lucas.