Circuit Judge Barr to retire

Published 9:11 pm Friday, February 19, 2010

Talk has spread that Pike County Circuit Judge Robert Barr would be serving his last term this year.

And, Barr publicly announced Friday he would, indeed, hang up his hat come year’s end.

“Eighteen years is a lot of stress. The job you do dealing with people’s life, children, freedom, money — it takes its toll,” Barr said. “It’s time for a new person to take over.”

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Barr will have served as judge in Pike and Coffee counties for 18 years when this term ends, but his legal career got started locally long before he took his seat as judge.

Barr, of Brundidge, began his career as a private practice attorney, and while he was operating his own practice, he worked for 16 to 17 years as assistant district attorney.

Also during that time, he taught criminal justice at the then Troy State University.

Barr also served for three years as a city prosecutor, and for his last three years as a lawyer became full-time assistant DA, serving as head of the drug task force for the circuit.

Barr was elected to his circuit judge position in 1992 and took office in 1993.

“Experience as a trial attorney is important because you’re dealing with other trial attorneys,” Barr said. “I had experience in that background that assisted me.”

After all that Barr’s done as judge, he said his service to the people of Pike and Coffee counties is what he’s enjoyed the most.

“I want to thank everybody from the circuit. It’s been a privilege and honor to be a circuit judge for them,” Barr said.

Barr is one of three judges in the Pike and Coffee County circuit and the only one seated from the county.

At this point, only two have entered the race for Barr’s seat, Clif Hastings, Pike County attorney, and Susan Clark, Coffee County attorney, both running as Republicans. Barr ran as a Democrat for the position he now holds.

There is also no official documentation, but an unwritten gentleman’s agreement has been made between the Coffee and Pike County Bar Associations, agreeing to always have one judge seated from where each of the circuit’s have courthouses — Elba, Enterprise and Troy.

Barr said this agreement started when the only courthouses in the circuit were in Elba and Troy. When the Enterprise seat was added to the circuit, Barr said Judge Sam Adams was appointed to the seat.

“At the next election Judge (Gary) McAliley was elected, and since then there has been a judge from Elba, Enterprise and Pike County,” Barr said.

While Barr said this agreement is not something required by law, it’s just the way the circuit has been for years.

“There is no law that says one has to be from each courthouse. That’s the way it’s been done, and that’s what’s right for the people,” Barr said. “The agreement is not illegal. It’s just not enforceable.”

Barr said he does think it’s important to have a representative from each of the areas in the courtroom.

“It’s important to know the people around you. I know people in Coffee County, but I don’t live there,” Barr said.

Barr said the judges in Coffee County are able to keep him abreast of what’s going on in Enterprise and Elba, and likewise, he keeps the other circuit judges up to speed on Pike County.

“It’s important we have a feeling of what’s going on,” Barr said.

He said another aspect of having a local judge is being available for emergency court orders.

“If there is an emergency up here, and someone needs an injunction released, having a local judge is very important,” Barr said.