Veteran Columbus Recorder’s Court Judge Mike Cielinski announced Tuesday that he is stepping down after more than 35 years on the bench, said his attorney.
Cielinski, 69, is currently recovering from a surgery he had in mid December, Neal Callahan said. Cielinski has banked enough leave and sick time that will allow him to remain in the job until Dec. 1, but he does not expect to return to the bench.
“He doesn’t feel like he can give his full attention to that all-encompassing job,” Callahan said.
Cielinski is chief among four part-time Recorder’s Court judges. Julius Hunter, Mary Buckner and Michael Joyner are the others.
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said she would like to thank Cielinski for his years of service and wishes him a speedy recovery and “all the best” in retirement.
“We have already taken steps to make certain our all important Recorder’s Court does not miss a beat,” Tomlinson said. “Everyone has pitched in from Judge Hunter to our new administrative clerk and the public defenders’ office.”
Recorder’s Court hears traffic, criminal and city ordinance cases made by the police, Special Enforcement, Airport Police, Housing Authority, Metro Narcotic Task Force, Fire Department, Georgia State Patrol and the Columbus State University Police Department.
The court is responsible for setting bail, issuing warrants, collecting fines and bonds, and hearing and determining if probable cause exists to bound cases over to superior and/or state courts.
Cielinski was born in Dec. 1, 1947, in Nuremberg, Germany, where his father, Army Lt. Col. Edward Cielinski, was assigned to the Nuremburg Trials.
After his father was transferred to Fort Benning, Cielinski grew up on the south side of Columbus on Walker Street, just off South Lumpkin Road.
After attending Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School and Baker High School, Cielinski went to Columbus College for two years, Georgia Southern for two years, then Emory University School of Law.
Cielinski was admitted to the bar in 1972 and appointed to the Recorder’s Court bench in 1981. In 1991, Chief Judge William Slaughter stepped down and Cielinski took over that position, which he holds to this day.
Cielinski’s brusque demeanor on the bench has earned him criticism over the years. In 2011, there was an attempt to remove him from the bench, which came before Columbus Council.
The late Red McDaniel, then a veteran member of Columbus Council, defended Cielinski’s demeanor.
“He’s tough,” McDaniel said. “But in that court you have to be firm, you have to be stern, because you get some kind of hard cases down there. I wouldn’t want that position. But he’s cut out for it, I guess.”
In the end, the motion failed and Cielinski remained in his job,
Cielinski, too, defended his behavior on the bench.
“I don’t see my demeanor as being nasty or harsh,” he said. “I can be strong or tough on sentencing, but I have a demeanor in the courtroom that I think is appropriate for the courtroom. Some people don’t think so, and that’s their right.
“But no judge is going to be the best-liked person in the world.”