By Geoff Hamill
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin appointed Lewisburg attorney Robert E. Richardson as a circuit judge for the 11th Judicial Circuit, serving Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties. Richardson will replace Judge Joseph Pomponio, who retired this year.
Richardson will take his oath of office in early July. He is currently shutting down his private law practice in Lewisburg.
The future judge is a graduate of West Virginia University, University of Virginia School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center. His legal experience includes work as an associate at Ford Law Firm, and later, partner of Ford & Richardson in Lewisburg. He served as a managing attorney with the West Virginia Legal Services Plan, the predecessor to Legal Aid of West Virginia, and opened his own law firm in 2000.
Richardson’s community service includes work in various capacities for the West Virginia Bar Association, Habitat for Humanity, and Legal Aid of West Virginia. He has also been a leader in West Virginia 4-H for more than 20 years.
“I have always been committed to public service and I believe this was an opportunity to pursue that in a different way,” said Richardson. “I think it will be a challenging position and I was ready for a new challenge.”
Richardson described his reaction to his appointment.
“I was excited,” he said. “I was very, very pleased and I’m looking forward to serving the people of Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties in this capacity.”
Drug crime and how to deal with it presents a special challenge.
“One challenge that faces the judicial system across the state, including Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties, is the prevalence of drugs in our society and the impact that that’s having on our court system,” said Richardson. “The criminal system is flooded with people involved in illegal drugs and crimes that relate to illegal drugs. That has a huge impact on the system. It is a challenge for the judiciary across the board.”
Richardson supports alternative sentencing programs for drug offenders.
“Changing the focus to include treatment, as the drug court does, is a very positive development in the law,” he said.
The former Legal Aid attorney said a judge must ensure equal treatment for all.
“I think it is a judge’s responsibility, in hearing cases, to ensure that the law is applied even-handedly,” he said. “Several years ago, I was appointed to a state commission dealing with issues of representation of low-income folks in criminal cases. It is a problem in ensuring that everyone receives quality representation. The public defender’s office has been a good step, and we have those in both Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties. That’s a good step toward ensuring that everyone has access to competent and professional legal representation. But it’s a judge’s job to not allow wealth or influence to play a role in criminal proceedings, or civil proceedings, for that matter.”
Richardson plans to run for election in 2016.
“I think this is a job that you grow into,” he said. “I’ve invested too much time and energy building up a law practice to shut it down, if I didn’t see this as a long-term commitment. And I think the people of Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties deserve continuity in the judicial system. So, I would plan on seeking election in 2016.”
Richardson was one of five candidates recommended by the judicial commission to fill Pomponio’s seat. The others were Greenbrier County Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via; Greenbrier County assistant prosecutors Jennifer Dent and Britt Ludwig; and Kanawha County senior assistant prosecutor Fred Giggenbach.