Two district court judges to retire in 2020

Two district court judges to retire in 2020

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LUBBOCK -

Judge Jim Bob Darnell, and Judge Bill Sowder's long history together at the Lubbock county courthouse will soon come to an end.

"It will definitely be an emotional thing for me when I reach that point in time," Judge Jim Bob Darnell, of the 140th district court, said. 

"Somewhat dynamic and a little bit emotional for me because I've been hanging around the courthouse since I was 8 and my dad was a lawyer," Judge Bill Sowder, of the 99th district court, said. 

Judge Sowder has been on the bench for 15 years, and Judge Darnell has been for 23 years.

"He'll always have a special place in my heart, for giving me my first job, and putting up with me," Sowder said. 

In their accomplished careers, both served as district attorney.

Then they followed different paths,  Darnell choosing to stay in criminal law and Sowder going to civil.

The pair would continue to serve in courtrooms across the hall from each other. 

They remember the cases that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

Darnell was known for running his courtroom as a strict judge, even sometimes towing the line. Once, he demanded a defendant's mouth to be duct-taped shut to keep him quiet in the courtroom. 

"I tried a case in 1996, involving the death of Randy Lawson," Sowder said. "It's very dynamic and it goes from violence all the way to forgiveness and redemption and that's one reason why I like the story and why it stands out to me." 


Judge Darnell described the case that hit him the hardest. Tim Cole, a Texas Tech student who was wrongfully convicted of aggravated sexual assault in 1985 and died in prison.

"After the statute of limitations had run on that case, the man who actually committed that crime wrote a letter to me and the District Attorney, claiming responsibility for the case. Probably one of the worst days of my life," Darnell said. 

"He really believed in his heart it was him. It wasn't, the system's not perfect. Jim Bob is spot on when he says his intentions were always good," Sowder added.


They share their advice, to the younger generation.


"You need to do it the Lubbock way, practice the law the Lubbock way, which is with ethics and common sense and getting along with each other," Sowder said.

"I hope that they understand that it's extremely important to be open and honest, and a person of integrity," Darnell said.


Judge Darnell's wife, Judge Kara Darnell of Child Protective Services, is now running for Judge Sowder's seat in the upcoming 2020 elections.

These old friends and co-workers say they will share a bond that will continue beyond their employment. 

 

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