Superior Court Judge Doug Pullen says he will retire before term completed

Superior Court Judge Douglas C. Pullen said Friday afternoon he is strongly considering retirement and will not complete his term, which expires in 17 months.

The effective date for Pullen’s retirement will likely be early next year. He said he plans to teach a spring semester course at Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law, his alma mater.

Pullen’s revelation comes as a special district attorney has been assigned to investigate potential criminal issues involving judges in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. It also comes amid an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which has oversight of Georgia judges.

Pullen, for his part, insists the ongoing probe has nothing to do with his decision.

“I have been looking into this and thought about it since my surgery last year,” Pullen said in an interview in chambers. “It is a hard decision to make, and I’m making it. This has nothing to do with nothing, except I am 66 years old and I have been here for 40 years.”

His seat is up for re-election next year.

Pullen said he has drafted his retirement letter to Gov. Nathan Deal, but had not mailed it as of Friday afternoon. If Pullen leaves an unexpired term, Deal would appoint his successor.

Pullen’s decision to leave the bench he’s occupied since 1995 comes at a time when the local judiciary has come under intense scrutiny. The JQC has been investigating possible judicial wrongdoing for months. The agency’s work is secret until formal charges are brought against a judge.

The recent investigation became public when District Attorney Julia Slater recused herself in a May letter to the state attorney general because “an investigation of the JQC has developed in a way that requires prosecutorial input.”

The attorney general’s office has appointed District Attorney Joe W. Hendricks Jr., of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, to serve as a special prosecutor.

Pullen has made no secret of his intention to step down before his four-year term ends. He has alluded to his departure at times from the bench, told colleagues about it, and made it widely known in legal circles. His secretary of nearly four decades is also planning to retire soon, Pullen said.

Pullen said teaching the trial course at Mercer, where he earned his undergraduate and law degrees, is “something that’s kind of been a lifelong dream.”

After graduating from Mercer, Pullen spent about a year in private practice. In 1972, he went to work in the District Attorney’s office, where he worked under E. Mullins Whisnant and Bill Smith before being elected district attorney in 1988.

He was appointed to the Superior Court judgeship in 1995 by former Gov. Zell Miller.

As Superior Court judge, he has never faced opposition, last winning re-election in 2008.