After 10 years on the bench and presiding over a variety of cases important to St. Clair County residents, Judge Charles Robinson announced his retirement Monday, vacating the last political position held by a Democrat in the county.
“I’ve certainly enjoyed my tenure as circuit judge, and I hope I have done a fairly decent job. I’ve tried to be stern when necessary, but also to temper that with compassion,” Robinson said.
A third-generation St. Clair County lawyer, Robinson entered the legal arena in 1965, shortly after graduating from law school. He practiced with former judge Frank Embry, and after a four year and 10 month stint as the district attorney for St. Clair and Blount counties, he practiced with Bill Church and Bill Trussell until 1990. They dissolved their partnership and Robinson operated the firm’s title company until his son joined him in practice a few years later.
“My son, Charles Robinson Jr., was the fourth generation of Robinsons in St. Clair County to practice law,” he said. “I’m pretty proud of that.”
When St. Clair County was split into two judicial circuits in July 2000, Robinson was appointed to serve alongside now-Mayor Bill Hereford, and later, with current circuit judge Jim Hill.
As a judge, Robinson has seen the growing drug problem in St. Clair County rise before his eyes.
“I’ve tried to help these young folks, and some older folks, by sending them to rehab like programs at Teen Challenge, Center of Hope, the Salvation Army, the Foundry and Lovelady Center. I feel like they do a good job in rehabilitating these folks,” Robinson said.
While not all came back rehabilitated, Robinson said he took great pleasure in those who were willing to help themselves.
“I’ve gotten the most pleasure out of sending someone to rehabilitation and them coming back and coming to thank me for helping them,” Robinson said.
Robinson presided over both the condemnation of the Avondale Mills property in Pell City, as well as the Ashville Bingo trial, but said that watching other St. Clair County lawyers from across the bench has also been a high point of his tenure as judge.
“I was a pretty good basketball and football player here at Pell City, and I learned to appreciate good teams and good play,” Robinson said. “I use that analysis to describe my time on the bench, too. I love to watch good lawyers try cases, and I have had some good ones out here.”
Robinson said he doesn’t know who will be appointed to fill his position, but has heard some very qualified names come up. And after 10 years as judge, Robinson offered advice to his successor.
“Don’t forget where you came from, and the job will always be bigger than the person who holds it,” Robinson said. “You’re not going to please everyone with your rulings, because one side is going to lose, but be conscientious in your rulings and rule with dignity. Being a judge is a great job, contrary to some of the rulings you read about in the paper.”
And as for Robinson? He plans to go back into private practice with his son in Ashville.
“I’m going to miss it. It’s like everything else, it’s with mixed emotions that I’m retiring, but I’m fortunate to have a place to go. I look forward to going back over there with my son. I hope I will be able to contribute something to his practice.
“He says he’s gonna pay me,” Robinson said, with a laugh.