VALE — Ninth Judicial Court District Circuit Judge J. Burdette Pratt recently announced he intends to retire from service as a full-time circuit court judge, effective April 1, 2012.

“It is time,” Pratt said about his upcoming retirement. “I have been a judge for over 21 years. There are some things that my wife and I want to do while we are young enough and healthy enough to do so.”

Pratt said he and his wife plan on going on a mission for the LDS church. He will be spending six months at the Mormon Handcart Historical Site in Wyoming, and they are scheduled to depart the latter part of April.

“We hope to do this on a repeat basis,” Pratt said.

The other six months of the year, Pratt will be spending some of his time back in the courtroom because he is asked to complete at least 35 days a year for five years after retiring filling in for judges throughout the state who are on vacation, on sick leave or who have conflict cases. The plan is called plan “B.”

Pratt said he is expected to submit his resignation next week to the governor’s office to start the process of appointing a successor.

Pratt’s current position is up for election next year, and it is expected that an interim will be appointed to fill in until the election can take place. Anybody interested in running for the position will have until the filing deadline to file for the position.

Pratt is stepping down from the bench after more than two decades, and he said he is going to miss the people and much of the staff he had an opportunity to meet on a daily basis.

“I am going to miss the people,” Pratt said. “As a judge, I work with court staff, attorneys, probation officers, people that are having their cases litigated. I work with people on a pretty regular basis. I enjoy working with people.”

While there are a lot of things Pratt is going to miss about being a judge, there are also some things he will not miss once he retires from his post.

On the top of that list is the struggle over money for courts.

“Right notw there is a struggle over budgets,” Pratt said. “The court budgets are being reduced, and staff is being furloughed. Instead of looking for what we can do, it is what we can’t do anymore.”

Pratt said there are more budget cuts coming in February.

A few of the cases Pratt has seen of the years are the type he will not miss with retirement, as well.

“A few case types are difficult, those involving children, criminal acts against children,” Pratt said. “They are some of the most difficult types of cases I have had to go through. It is difficult to see anybody be a victim, especially when it is a child.”

Pratt had practiced law in Nyssa for 14 years when he was appointed as a district court judge July 1, 1990. He has served as district court judge and then circuit court judge for a combined 21 years.

The past 12 years, Pratt has served as presiding judge for the Ninth Judicial District.

Upon retirement Pratt is expected to continue to serve on a part-time status as a senior judge.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the people of Malheur County and the State of Oregon as a judge for the past 21 years,” Pratt said. “I have been blessed to work with some of the finest people in the world in the Oregon Judicial Department and the Malheur County Circuit Court.

“I am a firm believer in the importance of the court system and the rule of law in a civilized society. I am, however, concerned that the ability of the Oregon Judicial Department to fulfill its statutory and constitutional role is being eroded under the weight of current and future budget cuts. I look forward to continuing to serve the people of this county and state as a senior judge and private citizen.”

Judge Patricia Sullivan has been appointed by Chief Justice Paul DeMuniz to serve as presiding judge of the Ninth Judicial District, beginning Jan. 1.

William Anderson is a news reporter at the Argus Observer. He can be reached at (541) 823-4815 or by emailing williama@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com

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