Like all of us, Judge James L. Prine is having an “interesting year.” His, however, is even more interesting than most. Judge Prine was sworn in as a Superior Court Judge in the Southern Judicial Circuit on January 28, 2020. A few weeks later, he and his wife welcomed their third child, George, born on February 20, 2020. Then, just as he was really getting started in his new role, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Judge Prine and his staff got going again in-person at the courthouse in late spring, only to be derailed again when he contracted COVID-19 in mid-July.
Judge Prine recalls his symptoms coming on fast. He worked at the Lowndes County Courthouse on Monday, July 20, 2020 where he wore a precautionary mask. That evening, he recalls feeling cold, and then waking with a fever in the middle of the night. On Tuesday morning, he canceled his calendar for the remainder of the week and arranged to get himself tested for COVID-19. At the onset of his symptoms, Judge Prine quarantined himself in his home for a week, but unfortunately that did not spare his wife, his two daughters, and his infant son from also contracting the virus. Thankfully, one of his daughters was completely asymptomatic and the other had virtually no symptoms at all except for an occasional slight cough. Waiting to see how baby George would be affected was “terrifying.” Fortunately, although the baby had a fever for 3-4 days, he remained a happy little guy and continued to thrive.
Judge Prine has no idea how he contracted the virus especially because he and his family had been particularly low-key since George’s birth in February. They only went to the grocery store and occasionally ordered take-out. He notes that a couple of other colleagues also tested positive for COVID-19 around the same time and that there are many shared spaces at the courthouse.
To get better, Judge Prine kept to himself in a separate room and rested a lot. When not feeling well, he found that simply sleeping helped the most, and took Tylenol to reduce his fever and to try to fight the worst headache he’s ever had. Judge Prine notes that he felt better in the mornings and symptoms worsened over the course of the day. He can’t say it enough, there are many, many symptoms caused by COVID-19 and it is rare for individuals—even amongst family members—to have perfectly consistent symptoms. While his symptoms were mild, “you do not know what it will do to you.” He offers this advice, “until we can get this behind us, follow public health guidelines, be safe, wear masks, practice social distancing, wash your hands thoroughly, and take this seriously.”
Despite the stops and starts, overall, Judge Prine has had a “smooth transition” to the bench after serving as Senior Assistant District Attorney of the Southern Judicial Court since 2002. Judge Prine is grateful to his predecessor, Judge Altman, from whom he “learned a great deal.” To scale the learning curve on the civil side quickly, he has found reviewing orders and pleadings in Peach Court and Odyssey especially helpful. Judge Prine finds that the best way to learn is “by doing” so he laments the pauses in his court calendar caused by COVID-19 because they threw him off his momentum temporarily. Despite this, Judge Prine, notes the silver lining of extra family time especially while baby George is so young.
For Judge Prine, this year has brought both the greatest of blessings and the scariest of times. It’s been “the best rollercoaster” he could possibly ride. He knows he can say that because he recovered from COVID-19 while others get critically ill or die from the disease. He urges everyone to remain vigilant in fighting the spread of COVID-19 so that others do not have to experience those terrifying moments of illness and uncertainty.