Verdict is in for judgeship candidates

Area courts will be seating four new judges after unanimous votes of approval in the General Assembly Wednesday.

Three of the four will be replacing retiring judges in Frederick County. A fourth is designated for Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Area legislators gave their blessings to the four candidates in a news release issued before the vote.

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, called them “eminently qualified.”

“They have the experience, integrity and character to serve our community effectively,” Gilbert said.

One of the seats is newly created and will be occupied by Alexander Iden, who is leaving his post as Commonwealth’s Attorney in Winchester.

The other seats are now filled by judges heading for retirement.

Frederick County General District Judge David S. Whitacre will be replaced by Winchester attorney Ian R.D. Williams. Another Winchester attorney, Neil Randolph “Randy” Bryant, was chosen to fill the circuit court seat now held by John E. Wetsel Jr. and Kevin C. Black of Woodstock will be taking over for William H. Logan in Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Del. David LaRock, R-Leesburg, said he was “grateful for the many years of service” rendered by the retiring judges, and declared himself “confident that these new nominees who have volunteered will continue this legacy of public service.”

Bryant was a substitute district court judge for 11 years and a founding partner of the Parthemos & Bryant law firm. His law degree is from the University of Richmond.

Iden has been Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney since 2002 and was in private practice with the Massie, Inger & Iden law firm from 1989 to 2002. He was a member of the Winchester Common Council from 1996 to 2001 and graduated from the University of St. Louis School of Law in 1988.

Williams has been a substitute district court judge since 2004 and partner with the Harrison & Johnston law firm from 1989 to the present. He was on the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors from 1979 to 1988 and earned a law degree from the University of Richmond in 1974.

Black is in private practice and has been working as counsel to the Shenandoah County Department of Social Services since 2005. He was a special justice in mental commitment hearings from 1990 to 2001 and has worked as a court appointed attorney on behalf of children since 1984. He received the state bar association’s pro bono legal service award in 1993 and graduated from the Wake Forest University School of Law in 1984.

State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, said in an interview Wednesday night that he feels “good” about the circuit court staffing levels in the state’s 26th Judicial District. The district encompasses Harrisonburg and Winchester and the counties of Rockingham, Shenandoah, Frederick, Warren and Clarke.

A report on statewide judicial staffing levels issued in 2013 found Virginia in need of 13 additional judges on the circuit court level and identified the worst shortage in the 26th district.

Obenshain described circuit court judges in the 26th district as “incredibly overworked” but the selection of the latest judges and the filling of several earlier vacancies has done much to ease the problem.

“It’s good news for the administration of civil and criminal justice,” Obenshain said.

Obenshain said remaining concerns among some attorneys about the size of the caseload in the Frederick County General District Court can be met by having judges from elsewhere in the 26th “make trips to Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties periodically in order to make sure our dockets are covered.”

“I am confident we are making and have made great strides to improve the coverage,” Obenshain added.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or