CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) – A longtime Chatham County juvenile court judge will be retiring after 27 years on the bench. Judge LeRoy Burke will hang up his robe at the end of the month.
“When I entered the field of law I never had the notion that I would become a judge. I can almost say that I became a judge on a bet,” Burke said.
That led Judge Burke to a 27 year career presiding over Chatham County’s court cases, cases that would change people’s lives forever.
“I’m looking forward to retirement,” Burke told News 3.
Judge Burke started his career as a juvenile parole officer in Fulton County. He was then encouraged to become a lawyer for juveniles and soon after a recorder’s court judge. After 11 years, Burke made the move to juvenile court. It’s been 16 years of putting children on the right path.
“It’s also bittersweet because I really enjoy what I do and I enjoy the people here but I also believe at some point everybody needs to move on so younger people can come along with new ideas,” Burke said.
Over the years Judge Burke has built relationships with the children who come in and out of the courtroom. One thing he’ll miss the most is seeing children mature and become good citizens.
“Some we see over and over and I consider our failures because we’re not able to reach in and get that child to change the direction they’re going in,” Burke said.
He’s helped move the needle forward in Chatham County’s juvenile court system. For whoever takes on this job next he has some advice.
“If you lose sight of the fact that these are people that you’re talking about and people’s lives you’re affecting and it doesn’t affect you, you really need to be somewhere else,” Burke said.
Judge Burke will say his final goodbyes at a celebration on Monday starting at 9 a.m.