After 26 years as an attorney and 13 years as a Hopkins County Circuit Court judge, James Brantley says it's time to retire.

"I don't want to wait until I reach the point where people say he needs to retire," Brantley said Friday from an office in his home.

Brantley has not filed the official paperwork with the state yet. But he says he'll do so around the first of November, setting a retirement date of Tuesday, Dec. 31.

Brantley's age was the top factor in his decision.

"I'm 68 years old," he said. "My health is still good. My wife is retired. I have a 5-year-old grandson that I like to spend time with."

Brantley was based in Dawson Springs when he was first elected to the bench in November 2006. He unseated Susan McClure, who currently serves as Family Court judge.

But Brantley's replacement will be appointed by the governor. The judge explained a three-person committee will be appointed locally to consider applicants. That committee will recommend as many as three finalists to the governor. Because of Brantley's retirement date, that will happen after the November gubernatorial election.

McClure said Friday that since she's currently Chief Circuit judge as well as Family Court judge, she would have no interest in the opening. District Judge Bill Whitledge also ruled it out.

A message left with District Judge David Massamore on Friday afternoon was not returned.

Brantley said he didn't consider it proper to suggest names for his replacement.

"There are a number of excellent attorneys out there," he said, "and I hope some of them apply for it."

During 13 years as a judge, Brantley has noticed one major change in the cases he's heard.

"There's a growing increase in what I perceive as drug-related matters," he said. "I don't know if it's due to our conscience or increased drug activity."

Brantley offered no immediate plans for his years beyond the courts. But he believes "the time is appropriate" to step down from the bench.

"I'm honored to wind up my career in this position," he said.

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