After 10 years behind the bench, Teddy Hartley is giving up the gavel for free time.
Hartley, a Clovis native, will retire from his position as chief justice for the Ninth Judicial District, effectively July 1.
"I'm still healthy, and I'll be 73 years old (when I leave)," Hartley said. "I have health and happiness in the entire family, and I want to spend more time with them. It's just my time to retire, and let the younger guys take it. They'll do a great job."
Hartley, a 1958 graduate of Clovis High, first came to the bench when he was appointed by Gov. Bill Richardson to succeed Bill Bonem in 2003.
He left Clovis after high school to attend Baylor University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1962 and a law degree in 1965. From there, he was invited to work as an executive assistant at the Office of the Texas Attorney General. He also served as assistant district attorney in Lubbock County before returning to Clovis, where he opened his practice in 1970.
Hartley considered applying for the judgeship filled in 1997 by Robert Brack, and later spoke with Brack and Bonem when Bonem's position was left vacant. He figured he would be able to serve somewhere between 10 and 15 years.
During that time, District Judge Donna Mowrer has been around Hartley as a prosecutor and on the bench. She said her opinion of Hartley did not change, even when her perspective of him did.
"He's compassionate, yet firm," Mowrer said. "His presence on the bench will be missed."
In his 10 years on the bench, Hartley considers his work with drug court to be the most rewarding. The program, which didn't exist in Curry or Roosevelt county, provides ways for non-violent drug and alcohol offenders to avoid jail time.
"Not any one case necessarily, but a series of criminal cases persuaded me if you could pull drug and alcohol addiction out of the criminal cases, you would have very few criminal problems," Hartley said. "The New Mexico system is doing better in rehabilitation, but we have too many people incarcerated due to drug and alcohol abuse. That would be my one memory of the time. There's a lot of joy in it, and a lot of pain in it too."
Applications for the vacancy are being accepted through 5 p.m. May 22, with the judicial nominating committee meeting 9 a.m. May 31 at the Curry County Courthouse. The meeting will be open to the public.