Judge Altman stepping down

File Photo | Thomasville Times-Enterprise photoSouthern Circuit Judge Harry Jay Altman welcomes a Thomasville Municipal Auditorium audience in this 2014 file photo.

VALDOSTA — Southern Circuit Chief Judge Harry Jay Altman has submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Brian Kemp.

"... It is time for me to retire. It is time to pass on the responsibilities of my position," according to a copy of the letter sent to The Valdosta Daily Times. 

Altman’s wife, Gail, confirmed the resignation Thursday evening.

Altman, 68, was appointed to the bench in August 1994, serving in the position for a quarter-century. The Southern Judicial Circuit covers Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Lowndes and Thomas counties. 

He became chief judge of the Southern Circuit in 2009.

Altman said his resignation becomes effective Jan. 1.

In his letter to the governor, dated Sept. 4, Altman called retirement “a bittersweet decision for me.”

“I’ve been a judge for 25 years, and I think I’ve done a good job; it’s time for somebody else to take over,” he said in an interview Thursday evening. 

He said the job of choosing a new judge falls to Gov. Kemp.

Altman, a Thomasville native, graduated from Thomasville High School, Washington and Lee University and the Georgia Law School, returning to Thomasville after finishing law school in 1975.

He worked in private practice before he was chosen for the court in 1994.

Altman's Valdosta-based cases include the long-running Kendrick “K.J.” Johnson saga involving a student’s death at Lowndes High School in 2013 and the 2016 sentencing of Eric Sheppard, a Valdosta State University student who received national attention for walking on the American flag and who sent a manifesto to The Valdosta Daily Times threatening to “annihilate” anyone who tried to take him into custody over a firearms charge.

The judge said the best advice he can give his successor is “Do a good job, be fair, be conscientious and be yourself.”

Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.

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