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Xavier Magazine | October 21, 2017

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Profile: Jeanne Hamilton

Profile: Jeanne Hamilton

Bachelor of Arts in political science, 1988; law degree, Indiana University, 1991 | Became the first female judge on County Superior Court No. 2, Hancock County, Ind., in 2001.

Getting Benched | “When I was 14 years old, I took a day off from school and went to County Superior Court in Indianapolis. A judge there was a friend of my parents, and my dad asked him if I could shadow him for a day. He sat me right next to him on the bench. I was right in the middle of everything. I found it so interesting that ever since that day I’ve wanted to become a judge.”

Benching Others | “I love it when students come to court. I’ll sit them next to me on the bench so they can have the same experience. Having students in the courtroom is almost like a scared straight program. It really shocks them to see prisoners in orange jumpsuits and leg shackles.”

Young Blood | “I think I’ve had more to prove because I’m young than because I’m female. Because I look young, people assume I don’t have much experience. But I’ve been in the business for 11 years, and as soon as I open my mouth I prove I know what I’m doing. That’s what I love about law. What you look like, what color you are, whether you’re short or tall doesn’t matter. When you get into a courtroom and start to speak, that’s when you prove what you know.”

Helping Hand | “In the morning, my court is pretty serious because the cases are for drugs and alcohol. I view my job as helping these people try and become clean and sober. In the afternoon, though, I’m dealing with restraining orders and small claims court, which are where you find your Judge Judy cases.”

Law Reviews | “Quite often, defendants write me letters and tell me how I changed their lives, that they’re now clean and sober. Or they’ll write from jail saying it’s the first time they’ve been sober in 20 years. On the other hand, I get death threats in the mail. If it’s not a thank you letter one day, it’s a death threat. I get a lot more thank you notes than death threats, though. People say I’m tough but fair. I don’t think there’s a better compliment a judge can receive.”

Start Your Engines | “I grew up going to the Indianapolis 500 time trials and the races. I can remember my dad taking all six of us kids. I’ve been to the last 20 Indianapolis 500s. I love the speed, the technology and the competition.”

Down Home | Hamilton relocated to Hancock County, a rural farming community, from Indianapolis in 1998 as part of a law firm merger. Three years later she was named judge. “It’s different out here, but it’s a welcome change. This is a people job. I have at least 50 people come through court a day. I enjoy the fact that I help those people and, in turn, help the community.”

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