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Brogden, Rice trade courtroom benches

By By Kerry Whipple Bean
Circuit Judge Joseph Brogden oversaw nearly 10,000 cases in his career – but he presided over the courtroom at the Escambia County Courthouse for one of the last times Wednesday, as family and friends wished him well in his retirement.
Brogden's "retirement" is only from his current position – he now becomes the city judge in Atmore. His last day on the circuit bench is Monday.
Brogden will essentially trade places with Bert Rice, the Atmore judge who was sworn in Wednesday as the new judge for Escambia County. He joins current Judge Bradley Byrne, who also serves the 21st circuit.
The Escambia County Bar Association hosted the retirement and investiture ceremony for the judges in the main courtroom Wednesday. Bar Association President Bill Stokes praised both men for their service.
"I have been impressed with his calm and cool demeanor," Stokes said of Brogden, "with his knowledge of the law, and with his fervent desire to see a fair and just result."
And Stokes said attorneys in the county also clearly respect Rice, as shown by the fact that he ran unopposed for his new position.
Brogden, who received the gift of a new Browning hunting rifle from the bar association, thanked his family, co-workers, county residents and bar association members for their support.
"It's been a distinct privilege and a high honor to serve as your judge," he said. Brogden said he learned an important lesson from his predecessor, Circuit Judge Douglas Webb.
"He made the comment to me, 'always remember a judge has great powers and responsibilities,'" Brogden said. "'Take care of the responsibilities and use the powers sparingly.'"
Brogden said he always strived to decide each case on the law – "nothing more, nothing less."
"Whatever else anyone says, I want them to say, 'He was fair,'" Brogden said.
Brogden swore in his successor.
"I have some footprints to follow, y'all," Rice said.
Rice asked those who packed the courthouse for the ceremony for their support for all judges and those who practice law.
"When you drive by this building," Rice said, referring to the courthouse, "you don't even think about what's happening here. There may be somebody on trial in a capital case. There may be a marriage that's just not working.
The responsibility we face as judges is truly awesome.
"It isn't so much about us, it's about the people. Keep us in your prayers.
We're just human and we've got feet of clay … your prayers mean so much."