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Cancer claims McDuffie magistrate judge

McDuffie County's chief magistrate judge passed away on Feb. 7 at his home. Robert "Bob" Cofer - who had served as judge in McDuffie County for the last 14 years - had been battling cancer for some time.

Judge Cofer was born in Wilkes County but lived in Thomson since 1946. Before becoming chief magistrate judge, he was an attorney in private practice.

Toombs Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge Roger Dunaway had worked with Judge Cofer for years. He said the loss of Judge Cofer was a great one in general.

"Bob's role was really indispensable in the criminal justice system as well as the civil side," Judge Dunaway said. "He never tried to draw a lot of attention to his duties or to himself. He was very humble in it, but he really had a valuable role."

Judge Cofer also had his troubles, some of which were made public because of his role in the court. He received a public reprimand from Judge Dunaway on behalf of the Judicial Qualifications Commission last January for a DUI stemming from an accident in April of 2005.

Judge Dunaway said last week that reprimanding his colleague was difficult.

"He was human. He had his weaknesses like all of us do," Judge Dunaway said. "But I think he mastered them. He overcame them, and his contribution will far exceed anything that could detract from it."

Judge Dunaway also commented on Judge Cofer's work ethic, saying that he was in the office just days before his death.

"His diligence was just remarkable, the way he continued to work, serving the people of this county right up until the very end," he said.

Judge Dunaway is charged with appointing a new chief magistrate judge for McDuffie County. He said he will wait until after the grieving process to select a replacement. In the meantime, Judge Cofer's two assistants, David Moore and Fred Vergeer, will carry out his duties.

Web posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007

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