| Northwest Florida Daily News
An already shorthanded and backlogged First Judicial Circuit was dealt a blow Wednesday when Circuit Judge Jeffrey Burns unexpectedly tendered his resignation.
In a letter of resignation that offered no rationale for the decision, Burns, who was elected in 2018 and took office in January of 2019, stated that his last day on the bench would be Jan. 29.
Burns worked out of Escambia County for the First Judicial Circuit, which also includes Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties. He was presiding over juvenile dependency and delinquency cases at the time of his resignation, according to Court Administrator Robin Wright.
“Serving the citizens of Escambia County, as well as the entire Judicial Circuit, has been a great honor, and has fulfilled my lifelong dream,” Burns’ letter of resignation said. “I wish nothing but the best for my colleagues, the attorneys of the First Judicial Circuit Bar and all citizens of the First Judicial Circuit.”
Efforts to reach Burns were unsuccessful, but in a Facebook post announcing the decision, he stated he and his wife, Lindsey, had agreed “it is the right time for me to return to my private practice roots.”
“I will officially step off the bench and return home with Lindsey to be closer to our family,” the post said.
Burns was appointed as Destin’s city attorney in September 2016 and served until December 2018. In a response to Burns’ Facebook post, Destin City Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell floated the idea of the city rehiring him in some capacity.
Burns said in the Facebook post his time as a judge surpassed “my loftiest expectations.”
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the First Circuit,” the post said. “From the joy of adoptions to the solemn intensity of murder trials, there was never a dull moment.”
Burns’ resignation, coupled with the June 1 retirement of Circuit Judge Ross Goodman could leave the 35-judge circuit shorthanded. But Chief Judge John Miller said sitting judges and retired judges will be asked to step in to fill the void.
“It’s not uncommon for us to have vacancies. … Throughout this circuit’s history we have been good at stepping up to fill in,” Miller said. “We do have a plan we’ll use to get coverage one way or another.”
The coronavirus pandemic also has created a backlog of cases because it has forced closures, delays and adaptations to once-standard procedures.
The Governor’s Office also has been notified of Burns’ decision to resign, and Gov. Ron DeSantis will be charged with filling the vacancies left by Burns’ resignation and Goodman’s retirement.
A Judicial Nominating Committee will select candidates from a list of applicants for DeSantis to consider.
“My hope is they will look at filling both positions at one time,” Wright said.