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Born: May 14, 1950Appointed: Oath of office, Jan. 8, 1997Previous work of note: Judge, Santa Clara County Municipal Court, 1990-1996; private practice, 1979-90Law degree: University of Santa Clara School of Law (1977)For some judges, an assignment to juvenile delinquency court is about as desirable as a year-long visit to the dentist.But to Eugene Hyman, handling juveniles charged with crimes in Department 77 is an opportunity to help youths who are on a turbulent path. In fact, after spending his first two years as a superior court judge in family court, he requested the assignment to juvenile.“I feel that delinquency court and the judge specifically can help children in turning around their particular situations,” Hyman said. “It offers each child the opportunity to do better.”In that vein, the judge tries to make sure that youths and their parents understand court procedures — often to the consternation of attorneys and probation officers. If it means taking an extra hour to do so, so be it.He talks with each youth who appears before him, exploring reasons why he or she is having problems as well as issues that may not have been included in the probation report. Unlike judges who detest the idea of playing the role of a social worker, Hyman seems comfortable with it. “To a certain extent you are [a social worker],” he said. “Sometimes you have to go beyond just the dots.“You actually get to engage the kids,” Hyman said. “Sometimes I change the orders after talking with them.”Although Hyman says he isn’t a stickler for decorum — noting that he allows attorneys to drink coffee in court — lawyers who regularly appear before him say that professionalism is an integral part of his courtroom.“He wants it conducted as if you were in front of a jury,” said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Ralph Dixon. Hyman will usually make his rulings from the bench.Deputy DA Kurt Kumli says that, unlike judges who are “emotionally hamstrung” about sentencing kids to the California Youth Authority, Hyman is willing to take the plunge when circumstances call for it. Judges who don’t utilize that avenue are the ones prosecutors gripe about, said the 10-year veteran of juvenile courts.“What matters isn’t what other judges do, not what the attorneys want done, what drives Judge Hyman is doing the right thing within the parameters of the law,” Kumli said.On the other side of the ledger, Hyman says he believes that defense lawyers may view him as being too harsh.After six years as a Santa Clara police officer, Hyman attended the Santa Clara University School of Law. He practiced personal injury litigation, workers’ compensation law and criminal law for 11 years and was then appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian to the Santa Clara County Municipal Court. Three years ago, he was elected to superior court.Hyman now runs a drug court, a domestic violence court and is a member of several committees, including one on substance abuse and on batterer’s intervention.“He is obsessed with doing the right thing,” Kumli said, “not only a case by case, but with the system as a whole.”

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