The city of Denison is searching for a new municipal judge magistrate. The city announced the search for a new judge and magistrate following the resignation of long time Judge Philip Shaffer after nearly three decades of service to the city.
“It is with much regret that we announce that Judge Shaffer, after 27 years, has decided that 27 years is long enough,” Denison Mayor Janet Gott said following a brief executive session to discuss the judge position. “Our loss is his wife Carol’s gain.”
Prior to his tenure as Denison’s presiding municipal judge, Shaffer served 10 years as the judge for the city of Bells. Beyond the judge’s bench, Shaffer also maintains a legal practice in Denison just across the street from the new City Hall building.
“I don’t practice criminal law as such, so this was a new world for me and it was always interesting to me,” Shaffer said Thursday.
With his retirement from the bench, Shaffer said he intends to do more traveling with his family. He said the demands of being a judge limited his opportunities to travel and see the country — something he will soon correct.
As the municipal judge, Shaffer said he was required to hold court each week and missed very few sessions during his 27 year tenure. Don Banman — who was reappointed as associate judge Monday — often would fill in during the weeks Shaffer was unavailable.
However, Shaffer said recent legislative changes now require magistration services to be given to an inmate within 24 hours of their arrest. This would require someone to be available every day of the week.
In August, the city appointed Ashley Sims to a temporary position as the city’s magistrate. However, Gott said Monday that Sims is not seeking to renew her services with the city as she recently took a full-time job with a law firm. Calls to Sims by the Herald Democrat were not immediately returned.
In response to the two vacancies, the city council elected to combine the positions into one single judge magistrate position. City Manager Jud Rex said it is not uncommon for the city to have both positions held by the same person depending on the size of the community.
Shaffer has agreed to stay with the city as the interim municipal judge for 60 days or until a replacement can be found and appointed.
“I hate to say that the sooner the better, but we just bought a new motor home and we are ready to use it,” Shaffer said with a laugh.
Shaffer said he expects little to change once he has fully stepped away from the bench after so many years. He still plans to maintain his legal practice, but admitted that he may take some time off to see the country.
“The only big change is that I won’t be going across the street to City Hall every week,” he said.