McGinnis retires as circuit judge

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By Becky Barnes

Harrison County Circuit Judge Robert McGinnis is stepping down, but not really.

McGinnis retired on Jan. 31. However, he was assigned as a Senior Status Judge for the 18th Judicial Circuit, from which he retired, the very next day.

McGinnis said he wanted to continue as the circuit judge for Harrison, Pendleton, Nicholas and Robertson counties, but the senior status judge program was going to expire. He wanted to be part of that program.

“I wasn’t ready for retirement,” McGinnis said. “I hadn’t even thought about it.”

Retired judges Bill Probus and David Melcher are also in the program, which holds a five-year obligation for any participating judge.

He can be sent anywhere in the state, but will be primarily located in the 20 counties that make up the northern region.

McGinnis first took over as district judge in November 1984 to replace Jack Arnold, who have moved up to circuit judge. Then, in 1989, when Arnold retired from the circuit post, McGinnis moved there.

For the circuit judge’s seat, McGinnis defeated Jeff Dean, who had been appointed to fill Arnold’s circuit seat. He has run unopposed for each election since.

Circuit judges serve eight-year terms. McGinnis had another six years left on his term.

“A lot has changed over the years,” McGinnis said, noting the addition of the family and drug courts.

Harrison County has also had the addition of the Justice Center. Pendleton County has one under construction and Robertson is going through an addition project.

He said he would like to see those projects completed while he is still seated in this circuit.

Another obvious change is that of his family. He and wife Brenda had one daughter, Jessi, who was 3 years old when he took office. Brenda was also pregnant with their second daughter, Katie. His daughters are now 27 and 24.

McGinnis anticipates that he will continue in this circuit through the end of the year. He is required to work 120 days, but can work as many as 180.

McGinnis commended the staff, noting that all of the judges in district have always worked well together.

“That’s not the case in many places,” McGinnis said.

He said that the three serving judges (circuit, district and family), participate in 24-hour coverage on a rotating basis, so that one of them is available for on-call duties.

“It’s been a good run,” McGinnis said. “I’ve enjoyed it.”