Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Retiring judge plans to be active

Retiring judge plans to be active

Holcomb, 72, pledges his help


  • Judge Charles Holcomb puts on his robe before court. Holcomb is retiring because of a law that says he can't run past the age of 70.

    Judge Charles Holcomb puts on his robe before court. Holcomb is retiring because of a law that says he can't run past the age of 70. (Michael R. Brown, FLORIDA TODAY)

  • Michelle Baker
  • Robert Burger
  • Charlie Roberts

TITUSVILLE -- Most retirees look forward to resting after spending decades at work with few breaks.

But after 18 years on the bench and 20-plus as a private attorney, 72-year-old Titusville Circuit Judge Charles Holcomb says he doesn't intend to slow down at all. He must step down Jan. 6 because of a mandatory law that says judges can't run for election past age 70.

"Some of my friends are surprised when I say I'd rather come to work than play golf," Holcomb said. He's already mapped out a plan to either continue to preside over overflow court cases as a senior judge, act as a civil circuit court mediator, teach college law classes, or all three.

"I wouldn't be happy unless I had something to do, so I plan to stay busy," he said.

Holcomb's retirement is just one part of a major reshuffling of judges come January:

  • Dependency court Circuit Judge Jack Griesbaum will take over Holcomb's criminal docket.
  • Griesbaum's spot will be filled by Circuit Judge Charlie Crawford, whose family court docket will be picked up by Charlie Roberts, a civil attorney who ran unopposed in the August primary.
  • Judge-elect Michelle Baker will assume the civil docket once held by County Judge Kenneth Friedland, who will take over the Titusville misdemeanor court spot previously held by County Judge Oscar Hotusing. Baker defeated Hotusing in the August primary.
  • Judge-elect Robert Burger will take over the criminal docket of Circuit Judge Meryl Allawas, whom he defeated in the August primary.
  • Felony criminal court Circuit Judge David Dugan will switch with civil court Circuit Judge George Turner.

    Judges are allowed to swap dockets every two years or so to expand their experience or explore their interests in different types of cases.

    Clerk of the Court Scott Ellis said he's confident the new and remaining judges will keep things running smoothly.

    But the departure of Holcomb -- whose experience presiding over civil, family and most recently criminal cases has earned him a reputation as "a true workhorse" -- is a great loss to the Brevard County court system, Ellis said.

    "Some people treat it as a job, but Judge Holcomb treats being a judge as a duty," said Ellis, who has known Holcomb for more than 10 years and worked closely with him in the past on a committee addressing jail overcrowding issues.

    Holcomb "gave the job everything he had to ensure his courtroom ran efficiently and that justice was not delayed for those before him," Ellis said. "His efforts will be sorely missed."

    Born in Live Oak, Holcomb spent much of his youth on his family's farm. The 1954 Vero Beach High graduate received a bachelor's degree in English from Stetson University in 1958 and worked as a salesman for several years before enrolling in the University of Florida College of Law. Holcomb graduated in 1966.

    Since then, Holcomb has worked throughout the legal field, including as a part-time prosecutor for the city of Rockledge and as an assistant city attorney and the last municipal judge for Cocoa.

    Holcomb was elected in 1990 to a newly created circuit seat, and has covered several high-profile cases, including hearings involving child killer Mark Dean Schwab, who died by lethal injection in July for the 1991 kidnapping, rape and murder of 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez Jr. of Cocoa. Holcomb was also instrumental in implementing Brevard's current parental visitation guidelines, crafted to help divorcing parents fairly share their time and responsibilities and to foster a friendly environment for the child.

    As he leaves the bench, Holcomb said he is grateful to his colleagues and the citizens of Brevard County.

    "I just love the law," he said. "I've been very blessed and I appreciate the people of the 18th Circuit for allowing me to be a judge for them. It's the ride of my life."

    Contact Summers at 242-3642 or

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