Among presiding Justice Harris Hines' numerous state positions since his admittance to the State Bar of Georgia in 1968, he can now add Chief Justice to his list of achievements.
Hines is taking over the role from current Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson in January 2017, though his term officially ends in August, according to a press release. At the same time, Justice Harold D. Melton will assume Hines’s position.
Jan Hansen, the public information officer for the Supreme Court of Georgia, said Hines was unanimously voted to the position based on his seniority and experience.
“I can assure you he is very humbled and pleased on the selection by his fellow colleagues,” Hansen said.
According to the press release, Thompson encourages the transition in order to provide Hines adequate experience as Chief Justice before his retirement in 2018.
The experience will arrive readily, with 11 upcoming cases due for oral argument before the court this week.
Some of the cases deal with land ownership and worker’s compensation, while one case in particular, Wolfe V. Regents of the University System of Georgia, has the attention of many.
Lorne Wolfe, a tenured professor at the Georgia Southern University, is appealing a Fulton County Court ruling that upholds his termination after the alleged sexual harassment of a female graduate student.
According to a press release, Wolfe made an inappropriate comment toward the student when she spilled coffee on herself. When she rebuffed his remarks, he reportedly spoke loudly and inappropriately with another student regarding her physical appearance.
The appeal is based on the university incorrectly applying the legal standard when firing Wolfe. By only being charged with “hostile environment sexual harassment,” Wolfe claims ignorance regarding his statements being grounds for hostile environment.
Because Wolfe is a tenured professor, the university is prohibited from taking corrective action against him unless his behavior is so offensive it makes the university liable.
The appeal is scheduled to appear before Hines on Tuesday Sept. 13, at which time the justices "will be researching the law, writing opinions and will be spending that time looking at the facts of the case and applying the law to the case,” Hansen said.