The Atlanta Journal and Constitution reports that Harold Nelson Hill, Jr., former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice, passed away at his lake home on July 5. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Willis Hunt called him “a stellar member of the Supreme Court.” Justice Hill began serving on the Supreme Court in 1975 and served as its chief from 1982 until 1986. He wrote a history of the Supreme Court and chaired a judiciary committee in 1984 that established uniform court rules for the state’s five trial courts. Judge Stephanie Manis, who clerked for him early in her career described him as “very formal and scholarly.” She went on to credit him for giving many luminaries in the bar and bench their start.
However, it was a bit strange that, with his death taking place on July 5, the AJC was so late reporting his death. Also, I cannot remember reading any of Chief Justice Hill’s opinions. A search of the internet shows nothing about him other than his obituary.
Then I looked up some of his old cases. It turns out that he was very accomplished. In 1972, he was an executive assistant attorney general who signed onto the brief of Appellee in Furman v. Georgia, the case that briefly held that death by electrocution was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment. He worked on a set of big cases in the early 1970s before going onto the Court and authoring many opinions there.
The Georgia Supreme Court’s website mentions nothing about his passing.
Sometimes, when you are so focused in your own work before the Court, you lose sight of all the stories that accompany all the portraits in the courtroom. This obituary made me look up the career of a very significant man in the Court’s recent history. It makes me wonder what the other stories are and what my story in the law will be.