By Jim Hendricks

Presiding Justice P. Harris Hines, of Marietta, will become chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia on Jan. 6.

The high court unanimously elected Hines to succeed Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson.

The justices also unanimously elected Justice Harold D. Melton to become the new presiding justice, succeeding Hines in that position.

The elections were announced Wednesday morning by the Supreme Court.

The state's chief justice presides over Georgia's judicial branch, with the presiding justice serves in the chief justice's absence. The chief justice is the main spokesperson for the court, as well as for the entire state judiciary. He presides over oral arguments and runs the meetings in which the court issues decisions in cases, although, like all justices, he has one vote in deciding cases.

The chief justice serves one four-year term and chairs the Georgia Judicial Council, the policy-making body for the judicial branch comprising 26 judges who represent the appellate courts and all classes of trial courts in the state.

Hines served as Superior Court judge of the Cobb Judicial Circuit for more than 12 years before then-Gov. Zell Miller appointed him to the state Supreme Court in 1995. Before his superior court judgeship, she spent eight years as a judge of the State Court in Cobb County.

In 1969, he joined the law firm of Edwards, Bentley, Awtrey & Parker of Marietta, where he became a partner in 1973. An Atlanta native,Hines graduated from Henry W. Grady High School, Emory University and Emory University School of Law. For 16 years, he has served as chairman of the Georgia Supreme Court's Committee on Justice for Children. He and his wife, Helen, have two grown children.

Melton served as executive counsel to then-Gov. Sonny Perdue before the Perdue appointed him to the state Supreme Court in 2005. Before that, he spent 11 years in the Georgia Department of Law under two attorneys general, where he dealt with issues that ranged from the creation of the Georgia Lottery Corporation to the administration of Georgia's tobacco settlement. He eventually served as Section Leader over the Consumer Interests Division.

A native of Washington, D.C., Melton grew up in East Point and Marietta. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Auburn University and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Georgia in 1991. An Atlanta resident, he and his wife, Kimberly, have three children.

Both justices will be sworn into their new positions in a ceremony at the State Capitol in House chambers on Jan. 6.

(c)2016 The Albany Herald, Ga.