Russell County Circuit Judge Al Johnson said Thursday he will not seek re-election for a seat he has held since 1996.
He will serve out the remainder of the term, which ends in December, but said he made the decision to go public now so any attorney in Russell County considering a run for the judgeship could have time to make a decision. The primaries are June 3, with the general election Nov. 4.
Though the elections are still months away, the Democratic and Republican filing deadlines are Feb. 7. Traditionally, county-wide elected officials in Russell County have been Democrats.
Johnson is making his intentions known because his son, District Court Judge David Johnson, plans to run for the Circuit Court seat being vacated by his father.
“I don’t want any iota of shenanigans,” Al Johnson said. “ I want to give everyone fair and reasonable warning.”
David Johnson was glad his father went public when he did “for the simple reason that a judge should be above approach. I want no whispers of shenanigans or hint of a fix. This all needs to be done in the light of day.”
Al Johnson has been on the bench in Russell County since 1984. He was a District Court judge for 12 years before running for the Circuit Court judgeship. In 1996, he defeated Michael Bellamy, who was appointed the Circuit Court bench last December.
Johnson, 63, said the time to retire had come.
“I am still in good health, and so is my wife, Jean,” he said. “The time has come to enjoy some of what we have worked so hard for.” David Johnson, 33, is well aware that he is following a similar career path taken by his father.
“I am for better or worse,” David Johnson said. “I have seen the difference he was able to make. But I have also seen the toll it took on him.” There are very few attorneys eligible to seek the seat. To be eligible to run for judge this year, the lawyer must have been a Russell County resident on the first Tuesday of 2013, said Probate Judge Alford Harden.
“There were only five or six lawyers who live in Russell County,” Harden said.
Most of the lawyers who practice in Phenix City live in Lee County.
David Johnson is still in the middle of his District Court term and does not have to resign to run for the job on the higher court. If he wins the seat, Gov. Robert Bentley will appoint his successor. Last month, Bentley appointed Bellamy to the Circuit Court job, which was open after Judge George Greene retired, and former chief assistant district attorney Buster Landreau to the District Court bench.