The first chief judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals and current senior judge on the appellate court died on Dec. 25 after suddenly falling ill.
Senior Judge George B. Hoffman Jr. served on the appellate court for almost 41 years exactly, beginning with his election in 1968 to the Indiana Appellate Court. He served as that court's presiding judge for the 1970 term, as chief judge for the 1971 term, and as the first chief judge of the Court of Appeals from 1972 to 1974.
Current Court of Appeals Chief Judge John Baker described Judge Hoffman as the court's tie to their past when the appellate court transitioned from partisan to nonpartisan. The goal was to have a nonpartisan court, but it took the people who were on that court in the early 1970s to make it happen.
"You have to have the leadership to make that happen," Judge Baker said. "We're the beneficiaries of that – the members of the court and the public we serve."
While chief judge, Judge Hoffman also began the Court of Appeals' program in which appellate judges travel around the state hearing arguments. He was a proponent of accessibility of the judiciary to the public, and legal education for judges.
After taking senior status in 1998, he immediately began working as a senior judge until his death. He was the first Court of Appeals judge in Indiana to author 2,000 opinions and authored more than 3,000 before taking senior status.
Chief Judge Baker described his colleague as generous, perhaps to a fault, as Judge Hoffman often put in more than the 30 days a year senior judges are required to work.
"He did it because he loved the work and he liked the people, and the people liked him," Judge Baker said.
Judge Hoffman, who grew up in Hammond, was a past-president of the Hammond Bar Association and a pastpresident and founding member of the Legal Aid Society of Greater Hammond. He served as a delegate for the Indiana State Bar Association for 30 years and was also a member of the Indianapolis and American Bar associations.
Judge Hoffman was active in his community, including Boy Scouts of America and the American Red Cross. His service to the community was recognized by the Legal Aid Society of Greater Hammond, Crown Point Community School Corp., East Chicago Bar Association, Indiana Judicial Center, and Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis.
In 2008, he was named the Indiana Bar Foundation's Legendary Lawyer for his 57 years of legal service. Chief Judge Baker presided over the ceremony.
"To hear what people had to say about George – people like former law clerks – made it very clear to me the impact he made upon the legal profession was going to survive long after he was gone," Judge Baker said. "There were so many lives he touched."
Doug Church, past-president of the Indiana State Bar Association, was Judge Hoffman's first law clerk and considered himself lucky to have known the judge.
"Judge Hoffman was plainspoken, loyal to his friends, honest to a fault, and a credit to his family, his community and his colleagues," Church said in a statement. "There will be so many places and events that will serve as reminders of the judge and he will be sorely missed by all of us who came under his influence."
Judge Hoffman served as a combat infantryman in the 102nd Infantry Division during World War II from January 1943 to April 1947 and received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Germany. The injury left him with a recognizable limp, but he never discussed being in the Army, Judge Baker said, noting that Judge Hoffman just went on with his life and refused to let anything hold him down.
He graduated from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1951 and worked in private practice at Royce Hoffman & Huebner in Hammond until he was elected as an appellate judge.
Judge Baker said he also had the privilege of performing the marriage ceremony for Judge Hoffman and his second wife, Louise Scudder. She was Chief Judge Baker's administrative assistant when he first started on the court. Louise and Judge Hoffman shared a birthday and that common tie eventually led to their marriage.
He is survived by his wife, Louise; sons Dean, Dale, Karl, Kent, and Kurt; 10 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. A public memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Bartlett Chapel United Methodist Church, 4396 E. Main St., Avon.