Whitfield County, Georgia, Juvenile Court Judge Philip Woodward has notified his staff that he will take early retirement.

Woodward, 68, submitted his letter of intent to retire to Gov. Brian Kemp sometime within the last week, a staff member at the juvenile court confirmed Tuesday.

Woodward has notified his staff that his last day will be Sept. 13.

His decision to retire comes about a week after the Times Free Press reported that Woodward had accidentally fired a gun in his office in March.

According to an incident report taken by the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office, Woodward was alone in his office at the Whitfield County Courthouse in Dalton and handling his new Glock 43X when he shot a round into the floor while he was sitting at his desk.

Several employees of the courthouse were in the office when the gun went off. Some told detectives they thought Woodward had been either shot through the window or shot himself.

The next day, Woodward apologized to his staff and said he would no longer have guns in his office.

After talking to detectives, several employees of the juvenile court worried about their safety in the office after the incident and about Woodward's overall well-being and competency as a judge.

Employees also said that they were aware Woodward had guns in the office because they had seen him show his guns to other employees.

The case had been administratively closed. Capt. Paul Woods with the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office said cases are administratively closed when no crimes are committed.

In the state of Georgia, judges are exempt from the state law that says guns are prohibited in courthouses.

Judges of the Georgia Juvenile Courts are each appointed to four-year terms by the superior court judges of the circuit.

Woodward had been the juvenile court judge for Whitfield and Murray counties since March 2017 and his career in law in North Georgia dates back to 1987. He took over for Judge Connie Blaylock after Blaylock retired.

Whitfield County Juvenile Court has an associate judge, Jason Souther. Souther was sworn in as associate judge in September.

It wasn't made clear who will take over for Woodward after his retirement.

Contact Patrick Filbin at or 423-757-6476.