Circuit Judge Bert Rice has decided not to run for reelection.
In a letter issued January 4 to members of the Escambia County Bar Association, Rice made this statement: “After much prayer and consideration with and for my family, I have decided to not seek reelection as Circuit Judge. I will conclude my present term in January, 2019. I am forever grateful that the Lord has allowed me this great privilege of being Judge. I am also most appreciative that the members of the County Bar have allowed me to serve and always be elected without opposition. My intention is to retire under the ‘active’ status so that I may continue to be able to handle cases in the future.”
Judgeships are for a six-year term. Judge Rice said he wants to remain active on the bench but didn’t want to commit to another six years.
“I’m not running from the work or the caseload,” he said. “I’m just backing off a little.”
The Alabama Supreme Court permits judges to retire on active status, meaning they can still serve on the bench but not be bound by a six-year term.
“We are fortunate that the Supreme Court allows us that ability,” Judge Rice said. “I do anticipate handling cases in Escambia, Baldwin, and possibly other counties … Right now, the caseload in Escambia County is the largest it has ever been. I do not see it shrinking.”
Judge Rice recalls his first case as a judge. It was November 21, 1977, Atmore Municipal Court in the city council chambers. He said he was not really nervous, but was a bit anxious. After thousands of cases and countless decisions, he is still mindful of the responsibility the office carries.
“Even now after 40 years, do I get nervous? No, but facing people with crisis in their lives, having to focus on decisions that may be life changing for people, it’s intense. As a judge, you always want to make the best decision.
“I’ve never forgotten something that was said to me a long time ago. ‘When people come in to court, that may be the most important day of their life.’
“Maybe not every decision I’ve made was right, but I hope people know I did my best at the point I had to make a decision. As a judge, you can’t be afraid to make a decision.”
Judge Rice has always run unopposed, a testament to his standing among members of the Escambia County Bar Association.
“It has been an unbelievable honor to have been given the opportunity to serve,” he said. “I give honor to the Lord.”
Qualifying began Monday, January 8, and ends Friday, February 9.
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