With nearly 11 years on the bench, U.S. District Judge Robert Junell has turned in his one-year notice.
Beginning Feb. 13, 2015, Junell will be entering senior status, a classification that removes him from his full-time docket in Midland and Pecos in favor of a reduced traveling docket.
Junell said similar to his 14-year legislative career, sometimes it’s good to have change, despite finding success in keeping dockets moving and transitioning into an increasingly technological courtroom.
“I think change is good,” Junell said. “It’s good to get a new perspective in.”
At 67 years old, Junell said he wants to focus more on his hobbies: climbing mountains and ski patrol at Ski Apache in Alto, N.M.
But Junell didn’t want to talk about his hobbies when interviewed in his chambers Friday afternoon. Instead, Junell said he’s not fully confident someone will take his position in time for a seamless transition.
At more than 1,000 criminal defendants in 2013, the most of any judge in the Western District of Texas, Junell said he hopes the U.S. Congressmen in this region and President Barack Obama see the importance of filling the spot.
“It’s always been a busy court out here,” Junell said. And not just in Midland/Odessa. “There’s not a lot of people (in the Pecos area), but there’s a lot of people who pass through there.”
Junell said he expects immigration and drug trafficking to be two of the most common and important issues going forward as they have been for much of his tenure on the bench.
But one changing offense has been the increase of methamphetamine charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Klassen agreed that since 2003, when both he and Junell joined the ranks in the Western District, methamphetamine charges have skyrocketed.
Klassen said Junell has carried on the district’s longstanding tradition of a “rocket docket” type of court in pushing cases through quickly but thoroughly.
“It is an absolutely pleasant courtroom to be in and everyone is treated fairly,” Klassen said.
He also stressed the importance of having a full-time judge in the position, and said a fill-in judge would work for a time, but the caseload demands a full-time judge sooner rather than later.
Junell said he’s not sure where he’ll office when he becomes a senior status judge, as there are only two courtrooms at the Midland Federal Courthouse and there may not be room for him there.