Judge Porter set to retire

Published 5:04 pm Tuesday, December 2, 2008

After 32 years practicing law and 12 years serving as a Superior Court judge for the South Georgia Circuit Court, Judge Joseph Richard Porter III is retiring.

A Cairo native, Porter received his law degree from Mercer University School of Law in Macon, Ga., and passed the bar exam in 1963. His decision to go into law was made easy because he said none of his areas of undergraduate study stood out as something he wanted to pursue.

“I thought law school was easier than undergraduate studies,” Porter said. “It was more interesting.”

Email newsletter signup

Finished with school and eligible for the draft during the Vietnam War, Porter joined the Army Reserves and went to Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., attending basic training. After training, Porter joined the National Guard and returned home to Cairo, at which time he began his law career at Cain and Smith in 1964. In his six years with the firm, Porter was made partner, and in 1970 he began his own law practice, Richard Porter Law Offices.

After 26 years with his own practice and taking on two partners, Porter began campaigning for the then open seat for judgeship for the South Georgia Circuit Court, serving five counties—Baker, Calhoun, Decatur, Grady and Mitchell counties. He was elected and took office Jan. 1, 1997. Porter said the decision to run for the judgeship came because after 32 years as a lawyer he was ready to do things a little differently.

Change in the court

Serving as a judge for more than a decade, Porter said he has seen changes in the courts.

He noted an increase in paper work necessary to handle cases, which he attributes to legislation. He commented that budget cuts on all levels have also made the job challenging as they affect judges’ rulings and sentences. He said they must look at the state’s capacity to handle prisoners with less personnel and space. He also said there has been an increase in drug-related cases although they have been prevalent throughout his career. He estimated as much as two-thirds of all the cases he handles are drug-related in some way.

Giving a bit of advice for future judges, Porter said, “You need to be prepared, have a varied background in law and be willing to make tough decisions, standing by what you think is right.”

Looking to retirement, Porter says he plans to do many of the activities his heavy work load did not allow in the past.

“I’m looking forward to having more time of my own and being able to do some of the things I haven’t been able to do as a lawyer and a judge,” Porter said.

He plans on playing golf, hunting, fishing and traveling. He and his wife, Sonya, have plans to visit their daughter and grandchildren in Wisconsin. In addition, Porter also hopes to be given senior status and requested to serve as a senior judge, helping out with heavy loads or filling in for other judges when he is needed.

A retirement reception will be held for Judge Porter Friday, Dec. 5, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Grady Room at the Roddenbery Memorial Library at 320 N. Broad St. in Cairo. The event is open to the public.