Two good moves for justice

Published 3:56 pm Monday, July 25, 2011

For most folks in Suffolk, the only way they’ll come into contact with the Hon. Alfred W. Bates III in an official capacity is if they’re charged with violating a traffic law and choose to fight the charge in the city’s General District Court. And that’s probably just the way that Bates would like it. Fewer people standing in front of Suffolk’s newest General District Court judge means more people following the city’s laws, at least in theory.

In reality, people are always going to break the law, and General District Court is where many of them enter the judicial system. For some time now that system has been hampered in Suffolk by a vacancy on the bench in Circuit Court, forcing substitute judges and retirees to hear cases in order to keep the wheels of justice moving. It’s good to finally have the seat filled permanently with the General Assembly’s elevation of Judge William R. Savage III from General District to Circuit Court. Savage’s move opened up the General District Court position, which has now been filled by Bates.

Savage chose to take his oath privately, but Bates’ ceremony was a chance for legislators, local elected and administrative officials and judges and other officers of the court to turn out and show their support. And they came from all over the place to do so.

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In the alternately formal and lighthearted ceremony, Bates was sworn in, enrobed and presented with a ceremonial gavel. Those who did not know him had the opportunity to learn a little about his background and the esteem in which he is held among those in the legal profession. Having spent 10 years at Tidewater Legal Aid Services and then 22 years in the Portsmouth city attorney’s office, he has a broad legal background that will serve him well in Suffolk’s lower court.

Suffolk is fortunate to have both Savage and Bates in their new positions. Justice will be well served by them both.