COLUMBIA — Gene Hamilton has had enough. The presiding judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit said Thursday that he will resign.
Hamilton, a Fulton native, has been a circuit judge for 28 years and has presided over 500 cases, including 50 homicides. He will resign effective March 26 and his retirement will become official June 30, just two years short of the end of his term.
“It’s a hassle,” Hamilton said of the job.
“If I’m out for two weeks, if I can ever get two weeks off, I have a stack of papers this high all across my desk,” the judge said, holding his hands up to indicate a vertical stack about a foot tall.
Used to making tough decisions, Hamilton cited his historic ruling in the 1989 State vs. Ralph Davis case as one of the most interesting of his career. The Columbia murder case was the first in Missouri to accept DNA into evidence.
Hamilton sentenced Davis to death two years after his wife, Susan Davis, went missing and police found blood and skull fragments in her car. Davis had been hiding the car in a rented storage unit where it was discovered after Davis fell behind on the payments and the unit was opened. Susan Davis’ body was never found.
Missouri Gov. Warren Hearnes appointed Hamilton prosecuting attorney of Callaway County in 1970.* He was elected to the 13th Circuit Court in 1982 and elected presiding judge in September of 2002 after the retirement of longtime Presiding Judge Frank Conley retired.
In his retirement, Hamilton plans to do arbitration and mediation in his hometown. He also hopes to travel to Germany. Hamilton was stationed in Germany during his service in the Army Signal Corps but wants to return, “just to see the sights.”
Hamilton’s replacement will be elected from among the other circuit judges by the court en banc, or by the full court, which most likely will meet in February, Court Administrator Kathy Lloyd said. Gary Oxenhandler, Kevin Crane and Jodie Asel are the other circuit judges.
When Vox magazine interviewed Hamilton in December, he talked of the time he spent working at his parents’ general store. While that experience did not lead Hamilton directly to law school, he credits his exposure to the store’s patrons and their conflicts for making him a good judge and helping him understand how different people think.
Hamilton served as chairman of the Missouri Supreme Court’s Committee on Criminal Procedures for 15 years. He is chairman of the Presiding Judges Executive Committee and served as president of the Missouri Circuit Judges Association in 2004. He has also served the Supreme Court in numerous other capacities.
Westminster College in Fulton presented Hamilton with several awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993.