Courthouse officials were taken by surprise Friday when longtime State Court Judge Kenneth Futch announced he had submitted his resignation to Governor Nathan Deal, effective August 31.
Futch has been judge of the Bacon County State Court for nearly nine years.
Reports indicate the resignation comes after a filing with the state judicial qualifying commission by an attorney who had represented Futch’s ex-wife, Sheila, during the couple’s divorce proceedings.
The filing reportedly involved a recording, allegedly made of Futch, shouting and irate, during a dispute with his then-wife. The recording was supposedly made days before Mrs. Futch shot her then-husband last year. Futch later recovered and briefly reconciled with his estranged wife, only to later dissolve the marriage in what was described by some as a “bitter, nasty divorce.”
Sheila Futch was subsequently charged in the assault. She has been arraigned and the case is pending.
In a statement to The Alma Times, Futch said:
“Allegations made against me regarding a recording are, I believe, baseless. I have never heard the recording, but have had it described to me. I am trying to put my divorce and those troubled times behind me and it just doesn’t make sense to spend $100,000 in legal fees now in order to keep a $20,000 a year job.”
Futch expressed his appreciation to the people of Bacon County for the confidence they have shown in him over many years.
“It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to serve the people of my home community as judge of the state court. After the last year or so, however, I am convinced it is time for me to devote my full attention and focus on my law practice and continuing to serve the people of this area the best I can in that way.”
“I am very grateful to my many friends and everyone who has shown me so many kindnesses during a difficult time in my life.”
Bacon County Sheriff Mark Cothren said he was surprised by the announcement.
“We are sorry to see him go,” the sheriff said. “Judge Futch has always been supportive of my office, and we worked well together in the courtroom.”
Bacon County State Court Solicitor Sam Edgar also expressed regret about the situation.
“Kenneth is a personal friend who is an outstanding attorney and he served well as a judge,” Edgar told the Times. “I hate to see him leave office under these circumstances.”
Edgar is also concerned about the length of time the court could be shut down.
The Judicial Nominating Commission is already receiving names of persons to fill the vacancy created by Futch’s leaving. Lawyers can submit their own names, or the names of others.
Nominations must be received by August 28, and the committee will meet to interview applicants sometime after September 25. The Commission will select and recommend to the governor from among those persons found to be “qualified” or “well qualified” a short list of up to five persons for this position.
“We are waiting on the governor to make an appointment to fill the vacancy,” said Bacon County Election Supervisor Ann Russell. “There will probably not be a special election at this time.”
Solicitor Edgar, who served as Bacon County State Court Judge from 1999 through 2008,and was the first state judge in the county, told the Times on Monday he intends to seek the position.