Back in black

Published 5:19 pm Friday, March 3, 2023

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WINTON – Standing at the front of the courtroom in the Hertford County Courthouse, W. Rob Lewis, II slipped on a black robe worn by judges.

“Looks good, right?” Lewis joked as those in attendance gave a standing ovation.

Lewis was sworn in as a District Court Judge on Tuesday, Feb. 28 in front of a crowd of family, friends, and many others who have worked alongside Lewis over the years. His appointment to the bench, by Governor Roy Cooper, is to fill the position previously held by Judge Brenda Branch, who was elected last year to the Halifax County Superior Court.

He will serve out the rest of the term until the next general election in 2024.

But this isn’t the first time Lewis has taken the oath to serve as a district court judge. He previously served the citizens of Judicial District 6B (Hertford, Bertie, and Northampton counties) before the merger with District 6A (Halifax County). At the beginning of 2015, as the district merger went into effect, two district court judge seats were eliminated, including the one held by Lewis. He had been Chief District Court Judge at the time.

After the merger, Lewis returned to his previous career as an attorney, joining his daughter’s law firm, Lewis Law Offices. Takiya Lewis-Blalock shared a few words about her father during the swearing-in celebration on Tuesday.

“He has served his community for 40 years. He was on the bench for 20 years, and now he has the opportunity to come back to the bench,” she said, and then also added a lighthearted comment, “while I’m losing him as a law partner, I’m gaining him as a reason to continue my cases.

“On behalf of the family, we are so proud and so excited to be here with you today. We’re just overjoyed,” she concluded.

District Court Judge W. Rob Lewis II will officially return to the courtrooms of Judicial District 6 on Tuesday, March 7. District serves Bertie, Halifax, Hertford and Northampton counties. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

Judge Branch told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald she was also excited for Lewis to have the opportunity to serve the district again as a judge.

“Certainly, he’s going to make a fabulous judge. We know that,” she said.

“For the citizens of Hertford County and Bertie County, this is a big win, to be able to get a judge back,” Branch added, noting that they haven’t had a judge from that part of the district in several years.

Superior Court Judge Cy Grant administered the oath for Lewis, and Chief District Court Judge Turner Stephenson presided over the ceremony.

“You can’t ever predict what’s going to happen,” Lewis said in remarks to the crowd afterwards, noting that he thought he might be retired by now in other circumstances.

He expressed his appreciation and gratitude for those that have supported him, including his family, his church family, and all the courthouse officials and staff. And he also thanked Gov. Roy Cooper to the appointment and the chance to finish out what he’d started.

“I’m going to try my best to do my best to make sure that I administer justice fairly and truly,” he continued. “It’s all about trying to help folks.

“We have to make a difference,” he urged the audience. “If there’s anything that I can do to help bring about change in this community, I want to be there. I know as long as I have the support of folks like you, then that will happen.”

In a follow-up interview with the News-Herald, Lewis reiterated those sentiments.

“I will miss private practice,” he said. “It was a unique and wonderful experience practicing with my daughter. But I look forward to the challenge of trying to assist the people of the district as a judge.”

Because he’s been away from the bench since the end of 2014, he said he knows things have changed but he’s also now able to bring a different perspective to the role than he had before.

“The longer you do something, you kind of get locked in your ways,” Lewis explained. “This gives me a unique perspective, going back to the bench after coming out of practice, because I’m able to see it with fresh eyes. I’ll be able to look at it with a fresh and new approach.”

His focus, he emphasized, will be to dispense justice while also being there to help people, and he’s looking forward to using his experiences from the past eight years to do just that.

Judge Lewis’ first day back in the courtroom as a judge will be Tuesday, March 7.

Lewis earned his Bachelor of Science and his M.S. Degree from State University of New York at Brockport and his Juris Doctor from the University of Cincinnati Law School. He also received his Master of Theology from the Roanoke Theological Seminary.