Longtime District Attorney Dons Judge's Robe

Smith County has a new judge. Longtime District Attorney Jack Skeen donned the robe Thursday.

After 21 years as the county's top prosecutor, he takes over the 241st District Court. Skeen replaces Diane Devasto who is now a justice with the Twelfth Court of Appeals in Tyler.

Many friends and supporters joined Skeen and his family for the afternoon swearing in ceremony. But after 21 years passionately arguing for the rights of crime victims, we wanted to know how Judge Jack Skeen plans to transition to the new job -- that is -- a judge who must not take sides, no matter how awful the crime. Channel 7's Morgan Palmer spoke to Skeen.

"I've never had any difficulty thinking how would I feel if it were my son or my daughter who was killed or who was raped -- how would I feel as a victim," he says.

For more than two decades, he's been the voice for the victims -- prosecuting with passion. Now, he's moving to a job where justice must be blind.

"You set aside completely your personal feelings you may have for any individual involved in the trial, or the case before you, and you serve as trial judge basing your decision on the facts of the law to ensure a completely fair and impartial trial."

Judge Skeen says it is a hard move, though his office is just three floors below his old...there must be a break with the past.

"The future is to step into this courtroom and step onto this trial bench and to carry out the duties of trial judge in this courtroom," he says.

And he adds he'll hit the ground running, run a tight ship, and never let the lawyers run his courtroom.  But after all these years, many lawyers go after the money in private practice. Skeen's a rarity.  He says he's never considered it -- and wont.

"I want to be able to finish out my public service career and my career in the criminal justice system in a local district court bench."

Judge Skeen says for the first few months, his court will be handling mainly civil cases. That's because he can't preside over criminal cases that started through the system while he was District Attorney. As for the DA's office, Governor Rick Perry will appoint Skeen's successor. No date is set for that.