Chief Justice P. Harris Hines, Georgia Supreme Court
Chief Justice P. Harris Hines, Georgia Supreme Court (John Disney/ ALM)

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice P. Harris Hines didn’t show up for work Monday. He had jury duty.

So instead of driving downtown to his chambers at the high court, Hines spent the day closer to home at the Cobb County Courthouse in Marietta. It’s the new building next door to the one where he served as a Cobb County Superior Court judge before moving up to the Supreme Court.

He did send a note, shared by the high court’s public information officer, Jane Hansen.

“As citizens, each of us has a duty—and the privilege—to serve as jurors when called. I’m no different than anyone else,” Hines said in the note.

Well, he might be a little different. He’s been a member of the bar since 1968, when he graduated Emory University law school. He practiced law in a Marietta and never planned to be a judge. But in 1974, friends put his name in for an opening on the Cobb County State Court, which handles civil trials and misdemeanors. He made the shortlist and went to the Capitol for an interview with the governor, who in just two years would be elected President Jimmy Carter. When the state created a new position on the Cobb County Superior Court, he decided to run for that and won. Another governor, Zell Miller, appointed Hines to the Georgia Supreme Court in 1995. During a snowstorm in January, Gov. Nathan Deal swore Hines in as the high court’s chief judge.

Cobb Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Tain Kell seemed to think Hines wasn’t exactly the average juror. Kell sent a note, too.

“When some people realized who he was, I think they were surprised to see the head of the judicial branch of government, who presides as a judge over criminal and civil appeals, willing to switch places and serve as a juror,” Kell said in a note also shared by Hansen. “The jury system is the bedrock of our democracy, and it’s heartening for all of us to see our chief justice play his part.”

At the end of the day, Hines still had not been picked for an actual jury. But he had not been dismissed, either, Hansen said.

And here his experience may be no different than anyone else. The chief is expecting to have to report back for more jury duty before he can return to work.