Armstrong ready to get started as District Judge

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 16, 2005

The black robe hung neatly from a coat rack in Bob Armstrong’s

new office in the County Courthouse.The bright yellow walls are decorated with paintings, family pictures as well as Armstrong’s law degree and the shelves are lined with thick, leather-bound volumes of law.

But, it’s that robe in the corner that says Armstrong is about to become Dallas County’s new District Judge.

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Sitting in his office Friday afternoon, hours before being sworn in, Armstrong is cool and relaxed, but a little nervous.

“There are butterflies but it’s good butterflies,” said Armstrong, an Alabama football fan. “These are anxious butterflies like when you’re lining up for the kickoff at the start of a ball game.

It’s churning but there’s excitement, exuberance, passion.

Once you get that first lick in, you settle down. That’s what I feel.”

Because of the nearly Republican-free nature of South Alabama politics, Armstrong won the job last June in a run-off primary election against three-term incumbent, Nathaniel Walker. It was a comfortable win.

He took 7,809 of the total of 12,451 votes cast.

He won with nearly 63 percent of the vote.

Still, after winning, Armstrong had a six-month wait ahead of him. So, he went to work.

He got a job in the district attorney’s office in Perry County District Court.

“For six months, I’ve been in training, which is invaluable,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong waited until the general election in November before he began really making contacts and connections that will help him in his next six years on the bench.

“I felt like I needed to be still and quiet until after the general election,” he said. “After that I began to focus on programs and going and making contacts, looking for money, networking and meeting people.”

Circuit Court Judge Marvin Wiggins swore Armstrong into office Friday afternoon in front of a standing-room only crowd.

“Several of us (judges) understand the calling to protect justice and we understand the task ahead of Bob,” Wiggins said.

Armstrong understands as well.

Because of the transition and holiday season, Armstrong inherits a docket that is fairly well backed up.

“In order to try and catch up I’ve scheduled some extra days in January and February,” he said. “To catch up on child support and juvenile cases, we’re going to probably have court a lot at first.”

Of course, that extra time in court puts more pressure on Armstrong, who ran on a platform that included getting out of the courtroom and into the community to help solve problems before they get to him.

“This is in theory because I’m not going to let (child support and juvenile cases) slide,” he said. “But I hope to partner with people where I can come alongside them and help and dream and help them run up money.”

Armstrong plans to hit the ground running.

‘I’ll partner with people that are already doing (good works) to try and help them,” Armstrong said. “I’ve got most of my Mondays and Fridays free from court. I know there’s a lot of paper work, but if I manage my time I’ll have time to spend focusing on bird-dogging a program.”

Armstrong has high praise for the staff he’s assembled and the people he’s going to work with.

“I’ve got our staff together and they’re going to be knock ’em dead, awesome,” he said. “We’re keeping (assistant) Sandra Parrish, she’s awesome.”

One of the things Armstrong plans to do is streamline the process.

The new judge, who saved money on his office by scrounging for new carpet, a desk and chairs in the courthouse basement, plans to get computers installed in the courtroom.

The computers will allow the clerks to work while court is in session.

“It will be much more efficient,” he said.

Armstrong said he also met with fellow newcomer, District Attorney Michael Jackson – who will be sworn in today. Armstrong and Jackson have compared notes as they get ready to start their new jobs.

“We both understand we’re in a similar situation,” Armstrong said. “We’re friendly.

We just talked.”

So as Armstrong prepares for the next six years, he’s got everything ready to go… staff, contacts, programs, schedule and robe. But what about the gavel?

That’s covered, too.

“It’s kind of a little funny about the gavel. I ordered one, but my wife told me to be quiet about that,” he said. “She said she’d take care of it so something’s afoot with that.”