MONROE, Ga. — Judge Samuel D. Ozburn said Friday he will retire at the end of April.
Ozburn, a Newton County native and resident, has served on the bench since January 1996. He previously said he would not seek reelection this year.
The decision changes the shape of what already is an unusually active election for judicial seats locally.
Of the five seats in Superior Court (Newton and Walton counties), only one was opposed in the past two cycles. But District Attorney Layla Zon has said she is running for Ozburn’s seat and attorneys Jeff Foster and Bob Stansfield are seeking the seat now held by Judge Eugene Benton, who is not running for reelection.
Judge Horace Johnson Jr. is not expected to seek reelection, as he is running for an open spot on the state Supreme Court.
Now, it will be up to Gov. Brian Kemp to appoint a new judge, and state law prescribes that so close to the election, the person chosen will serve until the next general election, in 2022.
Ozburn said he’s not going to be involved. Instead, he’s looking forward to the next chapter in his life.
“I’m in my 25th year on the bench, and I just feel like now is the time to retire,” he said in an interview Friday.
“I’m still going to stay active, and I’m going to ask to be appointed as a senior judge.”
That would allow Ozburn to preside over the mental health court in Newton County, and to be appointed to cases elsewhere in the state.
“I’m not going to vanish and go away,” Ozburn said. “I’m not going to turn sorry.”
He also plans to stay in Newton County.
“I’ve struggled with this for a long time and been thinking about it and prayed about it,” he said. “I just feel like it’s time. … I’m just ready. I’m ready to move on and looking forward to it.”
Ozburn is a graduate of Newton County High School, Oxford College of Emory University, the University of Georgia and the Mercer University law school.
He returned to Covington in the mid-1970s to practice law, later becoming the first downtown attorney with an office on the first floor of buildings on the downtown square.
Gov. Zell Miller appointed Ozburn to a new third judgeship in the Alcovy Circuit, joining Chief Judge Marvin Sorrells and John Ott.
The circuit since has grown to the point of adding two more judges.
Ozburn is an elder at Eastridge Community Church and a member of the Kiwanis Club in Covington.
Ott — who does plan to run for reelection this year and now is the chief judge of the circuit — said he will miss working with Ozburn.
“He’s done a marvelous job as a Superior Court judge in serving the community and the court system,” Ott said. “He’s been a man of utmost integry. I certainly will miss him. I’ve always enjoyed working with Sammy. He’s an excellent individual. You couldn’t find a better person or a better judge than Sammy Ozburn.”
The last open seat in the circuit went to then-District Attorney Ken Wynne in 2010.