Cleveland City Judge Bill Moss was found dead in a downtown parking lot late Monday morning.
Officials reported he possibly died as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
According to Cleveland Police Officer Evie West, his body was found outside his car at 11 a.m., and there were no witnesses to the incident.
CPD officers placed crime scene tape around the parking lot at 4th Street and Broad Street while investigators assessed the scene.
West said the investigation is being conducted by the Cleveland Police Department Criminal Investigations Division and an autopsy is to be performed.
Moss, 76, was a longtime member of the Cleveland Municipal Court.
He had served for 38 years, hearing cases involving violations of city ordinances and environmental concerns, according to Mayor Tom Rowland.
“He presided over what we call ‘The People’s Court,’” Rowland said.
The Bradley County Bar Association released a statement early today through its president, Ashley L. Ownby.
“The Bradley County Bar Association suffered a significant loss yesterday [Monday] with the passing of local attorney and Cleveland City Judge Bill B. Moss,” the statement reads. “Judge Moss was a lifelong resident of Bradley County and practiced law for almost 50 years in the 10th Judicial District with much of that period of time serving the city of Cleveland in a judicial capacity.
“Judge Moss was a fixture in the downtown Cleveland area,” the statement continues. “He was a mentor to many young attorneys in his life, and his demeanor on the bench to attorneys, police officers and litigants was always composed and respectful. He was a father, grandfather, friend to many and a dedicated public servant. His gentle manner and many anecdotes were enjoyed by everyone who came in contact with him at the courthouse and the city municipal building.”
“Judge Moss will be greatly missed,” Ownby wrote on behalf of the association, “but he will be remembered for his dedication to the local legal community, his long public service and the kindness he always extended to everyone.”
Moss held an office with Cleveland attorney James Logan. Prior to moving into Logan’s firm, he worked with the late attorney Conrad Finnell.
“The people of Cleveland have lost a great public servant. His court was the ‘People’s Court,’ where he presided with dignity and respect for the people who appeared there,” Logan said. “Those who appeared in his courtroom came away with an appreciation knowing they had been treated fairly. Bill Moss had a unique ability to apply law to the facts he heard and announce judgments in a way where no one was offended.”
“He was able to provide a sincere statement to clients of the court, which made his judgments acceptable,” Logan added.
Logan also said Moss’ health had been failing, but he maintained his downtown office at Logan-Thompson PC.
“He knew the balance of life. He was a farmer, outdoorsman and loving father who knew where his priorities should lie,” Logan said.
Rowland has directed municipal government offices to post their flags at half-staff in honor of Moss.
Community outpouring of grief and respect for Moss was almost immediate as word of his death spread.
“I was saddened to hear of the death of Judge Bill Moss,” Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said. “Our community was a better place due to his decades of service as a practicing attorney and city court judge. May we all pause to help support this family during their time of loss and let them know we appreciated the life and cherish the memory of Judge Moss.”
Tenth District Attorney General Steve Crump also offered his sympathies and remembrances.
“I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Judge Bill Moss,” Crump said. “Judge Moss’ tenure as Cleveland's municipal judge was one marked by a fair and consistent application of the law and a pleasant demeanor.
“However, while we will all miss Judge Moss on the bench, we are more saddened at the loss of a good man. His contagious smile and easy wit made him a true pleasure as a colleague.
“Judge Moss possessed an insightful intellect that stood on its own merits and did not require him to call attention to it. His abilities were evident from the first time you met him. Everyone was treated well by Judge Moss, regardless of their station in life or their ability to help him in some way.
“I, along with my staff, want to express our condolences to his family and friends, his colleagues at Logan-Thompson, and the city employees who he so ably served and of whom he thought so much.”
Rowland said Cleveland Municipal Court has been suspended for two weeks and the Cleveland City Council is expected to choose an interim judge to fill the position until September.
The Cleveland municipal judge seat is appointed to serve a two-year term.
“The Council will make a choice for the short-term, and a full appointment will be made by September when the term actually begins,” Rowland explained.
“Anyone with cases before the Cleveland Municipal Court Thursday or next week can call the city's main telephone number, 423-472-4551, for rescheduling. A city representative will be at city court Thursday to assist anyone who appears and has not called to reschedule their case,” said David Davis, public information officer for the city of Cleveland.
Moss is survived by two daughters.
No funeral arrangements have been announced at this time.