In his nearly 20 years on the bench, Superior Court Judge Jim Cline was known for chiding attorneys for idle time in the courtroom, saying they were “burning daylight.”
Courthouse talk was that the 62-year-old had planned to run for re-election in 2016.
An autopsy Friday confirmed that the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit judge died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, according to the GBI. The judge was found dead at his Greensboro home about 6 p.m. Thursday.
Particulars of how Cline came to be found, whether he left a note and other details pertaining to his death were not released Friday.
Cline was one of five judges in the circuit, made up of Baldwin, Greene, Hancock, Jasper, Jones, Morgan, Putnam and Wilkinson counties.
Otis Scarbary, one of Cline’s classmates at Mercer University’s law school, said he last spoke with the judge Aug. 16.
Cline called Scarbary at home, and they talked for nearly two hours.
“I just had no inclination whatsoever that he was depressed,” Scarbary said. “I’m really going to miss him.”
The two met in law school in 1974 and maintained a friendship after graduation, said Scarbary, who retired in 2012 from his job as longtime Bibb County solicitor.
He described Cline as “a really funny guy” who often used folksy sayings.
After law school, Cline opened a private practice in Greene County because he thought it would be an “up and coming area,” Scarbary said.
In 1985, Cline became a prosecutor at the Ocmulgee Circuit’s District Attorney’s Office.
Gov. Zell Miller appointed Cline as interim district attorney in August 1994 after longtime District Attorney Joe Briley resigned. Cline ran for the job outright three months later, but he lost to another circuit prosecutor, Fred Bright.
He took a job as a Bibb County prosecutor after the election and stayed there until Miller appointed him to the bench in 1995.
Bright said he and Cline maintained a good relationship after the election.
“We are all stunned,” he said Friday of Cline’s death. “I think most of the courthouse family is still in a state of shock.”
Cline had a “sharp legal mind,” Bright said.
“He would always cut right to the chase of whatever issue was before him.”
Outside the courtroom, Cline liked to hunt and fish. He was known for his cooking and a homemade barbecue sauce, Cline’s No. 9, which he bottled for sale.
“He would kid that No. 9 barbecue sauce tasted good on everything, even ice cream,” Bright said.
Once the state Judicial Nominating Commission receives official notice of Cline’s death, the judgeship will be advertised to area lawyers.
After accepting applications from interested lawyers, the commission will interview candidates and create a list of finalists.
The governor will interview the finalists, and a new judge will be chosen.
The new judge will run for election in 2016.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.