Judge Cynthia Kent retires

"It's a humbling experience to make decisions about people and their children and their property and their freedom and their lives," said Kent.

Right up until the end Kent's courtroom was full of family members and colleagues. All were looking on as Judge Kent made her final rulings as district judge.

"The law and justice work so well. People rarely recognize that thousands and thousands of cases where justice works, said Kent"

Judge Kent was elected to the bench in 1984. She was the first female elected judge to a Smith County court at law. As judge, Kent presided over more than 3-dozen capital murder trials. She says every case is important, but some have been more difficult than others.

In 2004 Deanna Laney stood trial for murder in Judge Kent's court.

"It involved the three children, and I'm the mother of three sons. As a judge, I can always put aside my personal position and render a decision based upon the evidence involved, but that case was a very difficult case," Kent said.

She says those times are why the portrait of John Wayne hangs in the back of the courtroom.

"I'd look up at John Wayne and remember his quote, 'America, I love her warts and all,' and to take a deep breath, say a prayer and make the best decision I could," reflects Kent.

"I think she's the, if not the best, one of the best trial judges in the state and probably the best judge that we ever had here in Smith County," said Kent's husband, Don Kent.

Longtime staff members echo that same sentiment.

"I've worked across the state with lots of judges and it's hard to find one that works as hard as she does, and one that's so smart as she is," said Court Reporter Keith Miller.

Tammy Miller, Judge Kent's Court Coordinator who worked with her for 11 years, said, "We'll miss her. We won't miss the long hours but we'll miss her. We'll miss her."

The American flag and the Marine Corp flag were hung in her courtroom after 9-11. In honor of liberty and freedom. They were to remain their until she retired. During a ceremony this afternoon, Marines removed those flags from the walls.

"I sure hope that I have been a serious student of the law," Kent reflected.

Judge Kent will accompany her husband at the law firm of Kent, Good, Anderson and Bush as a partner.

She says her first day on the job begins bright and early at 8am January 2nd.

Layron Livingston, Reporting llivingston@kltv.com