ATLANTA — After 50 years as an attorney and 44 years on the bench, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harris Hines hung up his robe one last time Tuesday.
At 74, the longtime Marietta resident and Georgia’s top-ranking judge has served on the benches of Cobb State Court, Cobb Superior Court, and since 1995, the highest court in the state.
While he is retiring Aug. 31, Hines said his love of the law remains and he has no plans of settling down. He is actually considering returning to the bench as a senior judge or even standing on the other side of the dais to argue cases as an attorney.
He will be replaced as chief justice by Justice Harold Melton, a Wheeler High graduate who got his start under Hines. Melton, the court’s presiding justice, is set to be sworn in as the new chief judge Sept. 4.
“This court is going to be in great hands,” Hines said from the bench, praising Melton and his colleagues, who he said would continue doing a terrific job.
A standing room only crowd gathered in the sixth floor courtroom for Hines’ last round of oral arguments. Among them were Helen Hines, his wife of nearly half a century, attorneys who have tried cases before him, members of his staff and even the staff members of the court’s other justices — who have gotten to know Hines well over the years and wished to see him off.
Addressing a group of about 20 young attorneys after swearing them in to argue cases before Georgia’s Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court Tuesday, the outgoing chief justice imparted a few words of wisdom he believed would serve them well over their careers.
“If you don’t work hard, you will not be successful as an attorney,” he said, stressing the importance of bearing down, a valuable life lesson he picked up during his time at Atlanta’s Grady High.
Quoting college basketball coaching legend Roy Williams, Hines told them hard work doesn’t guarantee success, “but without it you don’t have a chance.”
He also implored them to remember that everyone is fighting some battle and encouraged them to view the world through “the eyes of kindness.”
“You’ll find that you will see better,” he said.
See Sunday’s edition for a feature on Harris’ legal career and personal life.