After more than two decades on the benches of the district courts in the 20th Judicial District, District Judge John Scaggs said he will retire when his current term ends.


After more than two decades on the benches of the district courts in the 20th Judicial District, District Judge John Scaggs said he will retire when his current term ends.


“On Jan. 1, 2011, my jokes will no longer be funny,” Scaggs said, discussing his official retirement date. “When I first became a judge, an attorney told me while you’re on the bench everyone will listen to your stories and laugh at your jokes, but when you leave that’s all over.”


Scaggs said his decision to retire after more than 22 years of serving Johnston, Love, Marshall and Murray counties, is based on two reasons.


“The truth of the matter is I’m going to be 65 and I want to spend time with my family. So, it’s time to give it (judgeship) to someone else,” he said.


Asked to describe what he believes are the highlights of his career and those moments which have given him the greatest satisfaction didn’t bring reminisces of specific cases.


“Highlights? Watching Burke Mordy (longtime Ardmore attorney). He is one of the best — an excellent lawyer. And really good lawyers, like Burke, push you to know the law, to follow the law and apply it fairly. They push you to be a better judge,” he said.


“The greatest satisfaction has been in watching the (legal) system work properly and having had a hand in that. We have a lot of really good lawyers in the district. It’s a real joy to watch them work. I can’t think of many cases in which I was ever bored. I have a real appreciation for the bar (association),” he said.


Scaggs said he is also proud of the success of the drug court in Johnston, Marshall and Murray counties.


“We’ve done a pretty good job with the drug court,” he said.


Does the judge have any regrets?


“None, I enjoy being a trial judge, I truly do,” he said.


Scaggs’ legal career path started in the jungles of Vietnam, while he was serving during the war with the U.S. Army Field Artillery.


“I took my (law school) admission test in Vietnam. They picked me up in the jungle and flew my in to take the test. I was pretty smelly. No one would sit very close to me. And when I was done, they flew me back out into the jungle,” he said.


Having completed his tour of duty, Scaggs returned to the classrooms of the University of Oklahoma Law School and graduated in the top 10 percent of his class. He then returned to his home in Walters and practiced law in Cotton County for 15 years.


When the post of one of the district judgeships in the 20th Judicial District was vacated, Scaggs applied.


“I was appointed by then Gov. Henry Bellmon. I was sworn in on Feb. 14, 1989. I had to live in the district, so my family and I moved to Murray County,”  he said.


And the rest, as they say, is Scaggs’ long and distinguished history on the bench. It’s a career he has loved and one he said has been enhanced by those who also serve the law within the district.


“I think we have an excellent judiciary, excellent attorneys and an excellent bar. It’s as good as I’ve seen anywhere in the state, and the district serves the people well. I’m very proud of it. It is important to me that we have good, competent judges on the bench and we (citizens of the district) are very fortunate. People should be pleased by the bench and the bar. We get it right far more than we get it wrong,” he said.


Now the question is how does the judge plan to spend his retirement?


“Until Jan. 1, 2011, I’m going to keep doing my job. Then the first month I’m going to sit and watch the sun come up and watch the sun go down. What happens in between? I don’t know — I have no plans, he said.


How will he fill his time after those 30 days of watching the sun rise and set?


“I love the law and I love helping people. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I’m not just going to ride off into the sunset,” he said.


Marsha Miller 221-6529