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November 21, 2011


starika floyd

If anyone knows the family directly can you please let my Aunt Virginia know I am sorry for the lost and I would love to talk to her don't know if they will let my # show but Ill give it a try (219)484-5788 Thanks Starika Floyd

steven berk

My first assignment as a young prosecutor was to the Courtroom of Eugene Hamilton. I handled his misdemeanor docket, which included minor crimes such as shoplifting, possession of drugs and simple assaults. I was a disaster, overwhelmed with the administration of 20-30 cases per day. There were witnesses to coral, evidence to locate and even the occasional legal issue to analyze and present. It was a tough rotation.

Judge Hamilton was a terrific role model during that tough assignment. Despite near chaos in the courtroom: he kept his cool and most importantly treated everyone with respect and dignity. Whether a repeat offender, a victim of a crime, a police officer and yes, an inexperienced prosecutor, we were all treated non-judgmentally and with a quiet sense of kindness that Judge Hamilton seemed to maintain from Monday through Friday, regardless of the circumstances. It was easy in that courthouse to lose your temper or lash out – over frustration for some administrative snafu. Not Judge Hamilton, it was all part of the job and he was very good at it. The closest he came to losing his temper was in connection with one of my many mistakes. He called me to the bench (most Judges would have not shown me that courtesy) and said, “Mr. Berk you are wearing my patience today, you haven’t quite worn it out, but you are close.” That was it, no tirade or a berating in front of a crowded courtroom (I would get that from other Judges, but not Eugene Hamilton).

He was not the most severe of sentencing judges, hardly sending anyone to jail, but recall this was a misdemeanor docket. But he had a clever way of instilling fear and perhaps a not so subtle warning. In announcing his sentences, he would say loud and clear from the bench. “I sentence you to one year in jail” … then hesitate for what seemed like a full minute, and then say “the jail time to be suspended and a period of probation to be imposed”. Although I became quite used to this approach I often looked over and saw the fear and distress of the defendant who for that moment thought they were going to jail. Judge Hamilton had made his point.

I came to learn that off the bench, Judge Hamilton and his wife, Virginia, housed and cared for over 50 foster children, many with profound special needs. (and they had nine children of their own). He had a lifelong interest and passion for the rights of children – and he did not just talk the talk.

As we enter this Thanksgiving Season, I remember Judge Eugene Hamilton who died on Friday. He was a good and noble man.

Steven Berk

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