CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- A judge, who has served Hamilton County for decades, is stepping down. But maybe not for the long haul. The Honorable Judge Ron Durby is setting down his gavel and stepping off the bench to focus on health issues.

It didn't come as a complete shock to those who knew him but he's going to be missed. We spoke with a few of his friends today including Judge Clarence Shattuck who actually helped jump start his career nearly three decades ago.

Attorney Lloyd Levitt says Durby's seat will be hard to fill. "I can't say I was surprised," he said. "I had heard rumors that his health wasn't doing well. But if this is going to be a full time retirement we're certainly going to miss him."

Judge Durby stepped down due to disability.

Those who know him best like Judge Shattuck say he had the citizens in mind while making this decision. "He was more concerned with his duties on the bench. He didn't want to do anything that would violate someone's rights," said Shattuck.

Judge Shattuck met Durby almost three decades ago while Durby was a UTC assistant football coach.

He wouldn't get into the specifics of Judge Durby's health issues, but he did offer hope that Durby may not be leaving for good. "From what the doctors reports are that have been made public there may be possibility of his coming back in the future."

Because he's stepping down with a disability, he can return anytime before the next election in 2014. In the meantime the governor's office will appoint a fill-in. Both the fill-in and Judge Durby would have to run should they seek the bench for the next term.

Both Judge Shattuck and Levitt hope the fill in will have the same qualities that made Durby so likeable.

"He was sensitive to the needs of others, he was always trying to help people and maybe keep people from getting in further trouble," Shattuck said

"He had compassion, he would give second chances," added Levitt.