After nearly 10 years at the helm, Magistrate Judge Susan S. Cole has decided to hang up her cloak and retire from her position in U.S. District Court in Gainesville.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District is seeking a new magistrate judge to succeed Cole after she officially retires Sept. 1, 2012. She began her first eight-year term on March 7, 2002, and was reappointed in 2010.
Those who worked closely with Cole commended her years of service.
Clerk of Court James Hatten said Cole's retirement is "well deserved" and described her as a "very conscientious, capable judge who has done great work for the court."
"I hate to see her go but certainly she deserves it," Hatten said.
Prior to serving as magistrate judge, Cole was a clerk for U.S. Senior Circuit Court Judge Lanier Anderson in the 11th District Court of Appeals. She was also involved in a private law practice in Macon.
In criminal cases, magistrate judges are responsible for issuing arrest and search warrants, presiding over all pretrial motions and conducting pretrial proceedings, including suppression, bail, and preliminary hearings.
They also must handle the trial and disposition of misdemeanor cases.
The magistrate judge also makes reports and recommendations to district judges.
"So many times I am able to simply adopt her report and recommendation because it is so thorough, it is so fair, it is so appropriate," said Judge Richard Story of the Northern District.
"That certainly makes the job of a district judge that much easier when you have quality work coming to you (from) the magistrate," he added.
Cole was described as handling cases with the utmost fairness and was well respected by her peers.
"I think she has been as effective as a judge can be," Hatten said. "I think those who have appeared in her courtroom would say she has been fair and impartial — all the things you want in a judge."
"From our perspective she has been hardworking and supportive," he added.
Story said Cole "was an excellent judge" and will be "very difficult to replace."
"I'm very sad to see her retire," Story said. "She has been a very fair and effective judge."
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said Cole will be missed.
"On the bench, she has exemplified fairness and has maintained the highest standards of justice," Yates said. "Our attorneys and our entire office offer our best wishes in her retirement."
The court is now accepting applications through March 9 to fill the position, which pays an annual salary of $160,080, according to a notice from the court.
A panel of attorneys and other members of the community will recommend the five most qualified applicants to the judges of the district court. The applicants will then go through two sets of interviews, Story said.
All the district judges within the Northern District will then be involved in the selection of the succeeding judge.
A spokeswoman for the court said hundreds of applications are expected, many being from "well-qualified" attorneys.
Story said the ideal magistrate judge would have a thorough understanding of the law, have the necessary demeanor to interact with attorneys and litigants and have the ability to research and write detailed, comprehensive reports.
Those are qualities Cole displayed during her tenure as magistrate judge, officials said.
"She has done great service for the court and we would like to see her stay but I think she's making what she thinks is the right decision for her," Hatten said.