Savannah Morning News
SAVANNAH, Ga. - It has been a busy seven years for Chief U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr.
But when he relinquished his role as chief judge for the Southern District of Georgia, he left the district in good shape - if overly busy.
Fellow judge Lisa Godbey Wood in Brunswick became the new chief, or administrative judge, during a change of gavel ceremony in her courtroom. She went on the bench Feb. 8, 2007.
"It has been a real honor serving as chief judge in this district," said Moore, who will soon turn 70.
"It's been enjoyable, mostly because of all the cooperation that I've gotten from the other judges and people who work with the court," he said, naming the clerks, U.S. marshals, probation officers and courtroom security folk.
One of those, Mike Garrett, retired recently after serving 33 years in the clerk's office, nine as Moore's courtroom deputy clerk.
The court's chief judge is the one with the longest service time as district judge and serves a seven-year term. The honor then goes to the judge next most senior in service.
That judge must handle all of his or her regular duties but with the additional, at times mundane, tasks of handling the administrative functions of the court.
"I will not miss the administrative responsibilities," Moore said with a smile.
But he quickly added he plans to remain an active duty judge rather than take senior status.
Such status would allow Moore to step aside from the daily grind and reduce his caseload.
Given his age and time on the bench, Moore could have taken senior status at age 67.
He became a federal judge Nov. 9, 1994.
But "I have no intention of doing so at this time," Moore said.
In this district, it really would not matter.
Both current senior judges - B. Avant Edenfield in Savannah and Dudley H. Bowen Jr. in Augusta - maintain full caseloads, just as they did while active, Moore said.
Changes have flowed since Moore became chief judge March 27, 2004.
In addition to Edenfield and Bowen taking senior judge status, new district judges Wood and Randal Hall in Augusta have joined the bench. A third bankruptcy judge, Susan Barrett in Augusta, has been appointed, Bankruptcy Judge John Dalis has been transferred to Brunswick from Augusta, and magistrate judges James Graham in Brunswick and Leon Barfield in Augusta have been re-appointed.
Two senior judges and longtime judicial stalwarts - John Nangle in Savannah and Anthony A. Alaimo in Brunswick - have died.
It is largely through the efforts of senior judges that the local district stays current with its caseload.
The district now ranks first in the 11th U.S. Circuit in the number of criminal cases on dockets per judge, but also number one for not having civil cases three years or older.
The average caseload per judge in the circuit remains at 440 civil and criminal.
Moore said the numbers have been pretty steady during his tenure, with the biggest increase in criminal cases.
"We have one of the best, if not the best, judicial districts in the whole federal judicial system."
Moore notes with satisfaction the court's benches are all filled, unlike a number of others in the country.
"Our numbers qualify us to ask for another judge, but we have not done so," he said.
And construction has been ongoing.
A new bankruptcy court annex was completed in Augusta in 2006; new space added to the bankruptcy court in Brunswick in 2008; Wood's chambers in Brunswick renovated in 2008; a new senior judge's chambers built for Bowen in 2009; and Hall's chambers in Augusta also were renovated last year.
Though Moore leaves the district in good shape, its biggest need remains additional space in Savannah, where the court sits in the old federal courthouse-post office on Wright Square.
"The biggest need that we have in the southern district judiciary is the need for a federal courthouse annex in Savannah," Moore said. "We have simply run out of room."
Clerk, probation and U.S. Marshal offices all need more room to accommodate growing needs.
"We're handling our cases now, getting our work done. We just don't have enough space," Moore said.
When he opts for senior judge status, a new, active judge would be appointed whose duty station would be Savannah.
"Where are we going to put a new judge?" he asked.