Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman says he will retire on March 31.
Pittman made the announcement Monday in his hometown of Hattiesburg and later in Jackson.
Pittman is retiring nine months before the expiration of his elected term, which would end in January 2005.
The governor will appoint someone to serve the unexpired term, and Justice Jim Smith of Brandon, who will have the most seniority on the court, will become chief justice. Smith has been on the court since January 1994.
A justice will be elected in the state's Southern District to the next full eight-year term during the Nov. 2 general election.
"My reason for retirement is I'm retirement age," Pittman, 69, said in a statement. "I've been in government for 40 years. It's time."
Pittman is one of the few officials in Mississippi elected to office in all three branches of government — legislative, executive and judicial.