Originally created 03/17/04

Judge says it's time to retire



After 25 years of wielding a gavel, Superior Court Judge Albert M. Pickett will retire at the end of the year, he said Tuesday.

"It's just time to turn it loose," said Judge Pickett, who will complete his current term Dec. 31.

Because he is staying on the Augusta Judicial Circuit bench through the end of the year, his replacement will be chosen by voters in Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties, instead of the governor.

"It was perfectly intentional," Judge Pickett said of his decision to delay his retirement until the end of the year.

"This governor is not a lawyer," Judge Pickett said of Gov. Sonny Perdue. If Roy Barnes were still governor, he said, he would have retired earlier, confident in a gubernatorial appointment for a replacement. "(Mr.) Barnes was a trial lawyer who understood what judges need in experience and background to be good trial judges."

Whoever replaces Judge Pickett will have to win the office in the July 20 election. Superior Court judgeship races are nonpartisan. Qualifying takes place the last week in April.

Judge Pickett said he only hopes his replacement will be experienced and will have support from the legal community.

Richmond County State Court solicitor Sheryl Jolly said Tuesday that she will officially announce her candidacy for Judge Pickett's seat Friday. She was one of several candidates who vied for the last open judgeship, a position Judge Michael Annis was selected to fill.

Judge Pickett will take senior status, which means he can continue to handle cases in any Georgia judicial circuit when asked to do so. "I plan to be vigorous and active," he said.

Judge Pickett was appointed to the bench Dec. 18, 1979, by Gov. George Busbee, who Judge Pickett noted was a trial lawyer.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.