Upon his retirement, Kim C. Hammond will leave behind a courthouse named in his honor and a 30-year legacy of fairness, good humor and humility.
And he’ll throw in the freezer.
To those who work closely with him, Hammond is known for having a sweet tooth. Clerk of the Court Gail Wadsworth, who is a great admirer of Hammond, said he has eaten a lot of Peanut M&Ms in his time on the bench. In fact, one year Wadsworth bought Hammond a small freezer to keep in his office so he could have better access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
According to Hammond’s daughter, Paige, the freezer might not have accomplished its mission. She said that when her children visit grandpa at his office, they always seem to find Chips Ahoy cookies in the freezer.
“I can’t attest to what’s in there now, but maybe at one time there were healthy things in there,” said Paige Wolpert, who is now an attorney living in Orlando.
In any event, Hammond said after his retirement reception Friday, Nov. 5, he’s leaving the freezer behind.
“It’s my contribution to the courthouse,” he quipped.
The reception highlighted many of Hammond’s accomplishments and attributes, including his career as an athlete before entering the law. There was even a surprise appearance via DVD of Sen. Bill Nelson, who said he still has a picture of himself and Hammond from their days on the same Little League team.
Hammond also played quarterback at Florida State University and finished fifth in the 1967 Heisman Trophy voting before playing two years in the National Football League.
He then went to law school at Florida State and became judge of the 7th Circuit in 1979. He subsequently ran unopposed six times.
One characteristic emphasized at his reception was Hammond’s humility. One example may be taken from the tense jury selection in a death-penalty case last month.
As the process was nearing completion, Hammond repeatedly showed concern for the jurists as human beings, making sure they were given an adequate lunch break.
And at one point, he made a surprise early entrance from a 10-minute recess. The bailiff said, “All rise.” But Hammond held his hands up and said, “Everybody relax. I’m just getting my coffee cup.” The tension was deflated, and he left, coffee cup in hand.
Attorney Noah McKinnon spoke at the reception Nov. 5 and said he had tried more cases in front of Hammond than any other lawyer. He praised Hammond’s ability to remain personable and humane.
“When he came to the bench, he came without an ego that would compromise his impartiality,” McKinnon said. “He led by example and was able to persuade defendants to accept responsibility for their actions, and also led the defense to be compassionate.”
Hammond kept the cases in perspective. He also kept his job in perspective and was sure to make his family his No. 1 priority.
“He was always home every night,” Wolpert recalled. “He was hands-on with homework and sports, whether we liked it or not. We took it for granted then, but now I can see it was a big deal. His schedule revolved around home. … He was always there for us.”
She added: “We could never tell day-to-day whether he had a murder trial or a day off.”
Hammond said it was a conscious effort to keep work and home separate. “There are some things you can’t shake. But you have to learn to do your best and move on. We don’t have the resources to dawdle.”
Hammond was in no mood to dawdle at the reception, either, because of the cold wind in the late afternoon. He concluded the festivities by addressing the crowd and thanking them for enduring the weather.
“I’ve been blessed with great staff and great people that have made my life more pleasant than I deserve,” he said. “I appreciate your love and your attention for a good many years. We’ve done thousands of cases in my tenure, and it seems like everybody in the county has been touched by the court system in some respect. It’s been very satisfying.”
Once he is officially retired, he said he’ll still be around town as an active member of the community. Some people will still call him “Judge” and others will still call him “Grandpa.”
And, he said, “You’ll see me in the grocery store, buying ice cream bars.” But from now on, he’ll keep them in his freezer at home.
Contact Brian McMillan at [email protected].