After 30 years as 30th District Judge, Bob Brotherton is putting a 30 at the end of his resume, Brotherton decided 3 decades on the bench was enough.
Judge Bob Brotherton has been serving as a District Judge for nearly 30 years. He’s presided over criminal cases from petty thefts to capital murder. He had been thinking of retirement for a while, but it wasn’t until last year, coming home from the funeral of friend Judge John Fostel of Wise County when he knew it was time.
“When Judge Fostel passed away, I thought ‘well, that’s some sign to me that it’s time for me to retire, so I made that decision actually coming back from his funeral,” Brotherton said.
During his career, Brotherton has handled a lot of murder cases including Kody Lott and Justin Love, but one from 20 years ago remains fresh in his memory, and it is still dragging through the appeals courts as his career comes to a close.
“The one I think about most often is Faryion Wardrip, who was charged with several murders up here in the Wichita Falls area and one murder in Tarrant County. We tried him in 1999 and he pled guilty, got the death penalty, and he’s still caught in the federal writs system. Nothing has happened to him since then,” Brotherton said.
While some courts view reporters and cameras as a hindrance, Brotherton has always had an open door policy to news crews in his courtroom, so people can see how justice is administered for themselves.
“I think it’s more accurate if the public sees what’s happening in court instead of somebody interprets of having happened in court,” Brotherton said.
Brotherton has also been willing to answer reporters questions about decisions or status of cases in his court, not everyone is so interested in finding out about how the legal system works. Particularly some jurors who get very creative in explaining why they cant serve.
“There have actually been people who come up with an excuse then I say I’m sorry I can’t let you off. And they go back and get back in line and come back with another excuse and keep doing it until they finally get off,” Brotherton said.
Brotherton’s son, Ross, said he is very proud of his dad.
“To see exactly what all that he does it takes a toll. Just so proud of him and everything that he has accomplished,” Ross Brotherton said.
Jeff McKnight will replace Brotherton but said no one can really replace this judge.
“You can’t follow in his footsteps. You can’t fill his shoes. You have to just do the best you can to take the foundation that he has laid which is a phenomenal foundation and try to maintain that and build on that if at all possible,” McKnight said.
When people walk into the courtroom, they see photos on the wall of all the former judges who have served here, but no one served as long as the one in the latest to be hung.
Brotherton’s final day will be Dec. 31 and Jeff McKnight will be sworn in on Jan. 1.
While he will retire as 30th District Judge, Brotherton said he will be ready and willing to serve as a special or visiting judge wherever he is needed.