Judge Hugh D. Hayes

After 44 years on the bench, former 20th Circuit Judge Hugh D. Hayes — Florida’s longest-serving judge — is stepping down as he nears the constitutionally mandated retirement age of 75.

Cheerful, erudite, and unfailingly polite, the Raleigh, N.C., native and former Army intelligence officer doesn’t resent the mandate. After all, he says, he learned to embrace his role as a neutral by viewing the Constitution as his only “client.”