WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The judge’s bench in Wichita County’s 89th District Court will be changing hands in 2024 when the man who has presided over the courtroom since 2015 will turn in his gavel.
“I’ve talked to my family and my wife about retiring,” Judge Charles Barnard of the 89th District Court said. “It’s time to move on in my life. I’m in good health, and no problems there. But I have a bunch of grandkids and I’d like to see them more often.”
After the death of District Court Judge Mark Price, Charles M. Barnard was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to the 89th District Court.
When Judge Barnard’s term expires in 2024, it will mark nearly a decade on the bench for Barnard, during which time he’s presided over hundreds upon hundreds of cases. But he said the ones that stuck out to him were the ones that involved children.
“There were a number of cases in my court that involved child sexual assault,” Judge Barnard said. “Those are difficult cases to handle. There are some very sad situations that arise in those cases and yet I think I’ve done a good job in presiding over those.”
John Gillespie, Wichita County’s District Attorney, has served as a prosecutor on a number of those cases. He said Judge Barnard shares a characteristic with his predecessor.
“Mark Price was known for hammering child molesters,” Gillespie said. “When they were convicted, he started a trend really of stacked sentences on child molester cases. Judge Barnard picked that up and carried that on.”
Gillespie said that’s just one of the things he’ll remember about Judge Barnard after he retires in 2024.
“I think that that’s going to be one of his legacies, that that court is very tough on child molesters and those who prey upon kids,” Gillespie said.
There’s a fine line between being tough and being kind, and that’s never more the case than for judges on the bench. However, Gillespie said Judge Barnard walked that line perfectly.
“What he understands is that in criminal cases, people are presumed to be innocent,” Gillespie said. “He was kind to all the parties, respectful to all the parties, gave the defendant the fair trial. But when it came time to sentence him, that’s when the hammer came down. They were no longer presumed innocent… So I think he really walked that line in an appropriate way.”
Gillespie said he hopes Judge Barnard’s fair balance of being tough and being kind is just another part of his legacy.
“That is a great thing in a judge and it’s something that we all ought to aspire to be more like that,” Gillespie said.
Judge Barnard said he’s going to make some time for what’s most important when his term expires.
“I plan on traveling some,” Judge Barnard said. “My sister lives in Montana, my brother lives in New York. I wanna be with family and friends as much as I can be.”
Judge Barnard said he doesn’t want to stop presiding over cases completely. He said he hopes to make a few guest appearances on the bench as well.
“I’d like to continue as a visiting judge,” Judge Barnard said. “Hopefully I can be assigned to do that.”
However, Judge Barnard said the end of his current term is the right time to hang up the robe.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time on the bench,” Judge Barnard said. “I’ve learned a lot and I hope that I’ve served the State of Texas and Wichita County well as the judge of the 89th District Court.”