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Peers give advice, say Bushnell is a ‘perfect fit’ for judgeship
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Bob Bushnell, the new juvenile and domestic relations court judge, speaks to the crowd after he took his oath on Friday. Behind him are Circuit Court Judges David Williams (left) and Martin Clark.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

Be patient.

That is Susan Deatherage’s advice for Bob Bushnell, the Henry County commonwealth’s attorney who will join her as a judge in the 21st District’s Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court on Monday.

Deatherage is going into her 19th year on the bench. On Friday, she watched as Bushnell repeated an oath to become the area’s newest judge in that court. He succeeds Junius Warren, who retired last spring.

At a reception after the ceremony at the Henry County Administration Building, Deatherage offered some advice to her new colleague.

“Don’t be overwhelmed,” she said. There will be long days getting through the court docket, and hard questions in the court that deals with custody, child support, domestic assault and other issues, she said.

Shifting gears between the wide variety of cases can be difficult, Deatherage said, warning that Bushnell could find himself still working at 6 or 7 p.m. some days to finish the docket.

It took her about a month to adjust to the pace and caseload, she said, though she had worked with domestic relations court cases and been a substitute judge for two years before she moved to the bench full-time. Now, she added, the caseload is larger and some laws have changed.

She suggested Bushnell be patient with himself and others and listen to those he works with, such as the bailiffs and clerks, who have worked in the court for some time and can offer guidance, she said.

“He’s going to do well,” she said.

Bob Crouch, a former Henry County resident, county circuit court clerk and U.S. attorney, also was in the crowd at Bushnell’s swearing-in and reception. Crouch now lives near Richmond and is a government consultant. He also previously was an assistant to the governor for commonwealth preparedness under then-Gov. Tim Kaine.

He and Bushnell have been professional associates and personal friends for nearly 30 years, Crouch said. They practiced law together at the Martinsville law firm of Young, Haskins, Mann & Gregory before Bushnell became Henry County commonwealth’s attorney in 1990 and, two years later, Crouch became the U.S. attorney for Western Virginia.

“That’s one of the striking things” about Bushnell, Crouch said. “People he becomes acquainted with professionally become long-time friends. A lot of the credit for that goes to him” because of his openness and his caring for people.

Crouch said the combination of those attributes and Bushnell’s legal skills and experience will be valuable in his new role as a judge, especially in the juvenile and domestic relations court. In that court, Crouch said, issues often are powerful, emotional and not easily resolved.

“The qualities of character and personality that Bob Bushnell has demonstrated as an attorney, a prosecutor, in the community, in his church and as a friend are going to benefit this community from the bench,” added Crouch.

Bushnell’s counterpart in Martinsville, Commonwealth’s Attorney Joan Ziglar, said his move to the bench will be a difficult adjustment for her because “Bob and I talk about so much. ... I will miss that aspect of it.”

Ziglar agreed that Bushnell has the attitude that juvenile and domestic relations court judges need. She said he is “patient, loving, understanding. He sees the good in people. He tries so hard never to see the ugliness in everybody. He’s so good at that.”

He is so good, in fact, that Ziglar said she calls him Opie after the kind-hearted son on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

“I tell him (Bushnell) he was called to the ministry and got confused,” she quipped.

Ziglar also speaks highly of Andrew Nester, who will succeed Bushnell as Henry County commonwealth’s attorney.

“I’ve known Andrew forever,” she said. “He’s got a great work ethic. He’s very bright, easy going. He doesn’t talk as much as Bob (Bushnell), but he can talk.”

State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill, who also is a lawyer, said he tried his first case in Henry County in 1994 against Bushnell. When Bushnell expressed interest in the judgeship during last winter’s General Assembly session, Stanley helped steer his appointment through the Senate.

“It’s a perfect fit,” he said, mentioning Bushnell’s compassionate nature and calling him the best candidate for the job.

“It’s a good day for Henry County,” Stanley added.


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