Phil Brown, Bibb County’s chief Superior Court judge, will retire at year’s end.
In recent weeks, there had been whispers in local legal circles that the 72-year-old might step down.
Brown, who has presided over pretrial hearings in the murder case against Stephen McDaniel in the Lauren Giddings slaying, cited his age as part of his reason for leaving the bench.
“I’ve been thinking about this awhile,” Brown said Tuesday, “and it’s just what I’m ready to do. ... I need to do what I need to do, and I’ve been thinking about retiring a couple of years.”
Brown said he would continue to preside over hearings set for next week in the McDaniel case, but that another judge will be assigned before the trial.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Jan. 6, but that will probably be pushed back because of Brown’s retirement.
No decision has been made about which judge will be assigned to the McDaniel case, but the trial will likely be handled by judges Tripp Self or Howard Simms, or possibly a specially appointed judge from outside the Macon Judicial Circuit.
Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke said his office would “work hard with whoever is assigned this case to make sure that we get justice for Lauren and the community.”
Brown was appointed to his judgeship by then-Gov. Zell Miller in 1996, and he has served since then. He was re-elected in 2012. His term expires in 2016.
“You just kind of look for a break in the action and say, you know, ‘If I’m gonna jump out of this plane, this is my chance,” he said.
“With my age and, you know, I don’t want to say more than I should, but it’s just time.”
Asked if there was anything else he could share about his retirement decision, Brown said, “Maybe one day. It’s not anything that I’d be embarrassed by. I just don’t want anybody to say anything but (that) I’ve had good experience here.
“You know, it didn’t seem like the plane was gonna come down to a quick, smooth landing right away, and I just wanted to say, you know, fine, let cases take ... their course and meanwhile I’ll leave it to some of these younger (judges) that know more or better than me.”
When Gov. Nathan Deal receives and accepts Brown’s resignation, the state Judicial Nominating Commission will accept applications from nominees to complete Brown’s term.
The commission will interview candidates and submit a list of a finalists to the governor. Deal will then conduct his own interviews of the finalists and appoint one of them judge. The process could take a few months.
Brown, a Macon native, graduated from Lanier High School in 1959. He graduated from Auburn University, then from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law in 1967.
He worked as a government attorney in the Internal Revenue Service’s regional office in New York City from 1967 till January 1969, when he began practicing law in Macon.
Elected at age 29, he was a member of the state House of Representatives for two terms, from 1971 to 1974. Among the measures he championed as a lawmaker was a bill to bring lobbying activities in Georgia into the open and fluoridation of the Bibb County water system.
Brown joined the law firm of Bloch, Hall, Hawkins and Owens in 1972.
Reflecting on his career, he said, “It’s been a real treasure of an experience. ... I’ve been around and seen a lot.”
Staff writer Oby Brown contributed to this report.