Union County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Charlotte Coleman Eufinger, shown above, recently stepped down from the bench after 18 years of service. (Photo submitted)
Whether practicing as an attorney or sitting on the bench, Judge Charlotte Coleman Eufinger spent her career focused on families.
After three terms and 18 years as Union County Juvenile and Probate Judge, Eufinger recently celebrated her retirement.
“People don’t come into the court with small matters,” she said, adding that even something as simple as a name change could be monumental for that individual.
“What you see in court is life,” she said.
Eufinger said she was inspired from a young age by her father, who was an “excellent lawyer.”
She graduated from Miami University with a history degree and a teaching certification, but wanted to pursue the dream she had since fourth grade: following in her father’s footsteps.
After graduating from the Ohio State University College of Law as one of only nine women in her class, she was in private practice for 30 years.
She spent much of that time alongside her father, brother and husband.
“Getting to practice with dad was just the best,” Eufinger said.
She said her family had a “great time being together,” but she felt compelled to “do something a little different.”
Once becoming the first woman elected to the position in November 2002, Eufinger said she brought the same people-first mentality that drove her as an attorney, to the bench.
“I have always felt it’s necessary to respect what their feelings are,” she said.
Her desire to “treat others the way I would want to be treated” is reflected by her accomplishments during her tenure.
Eufinger worked to establish two certified drug treatment courts in Union County and a guardianship service for local incompetent adults.
“I thought, too many of my cases involve substance abuse,” she said. “We’ve got to do something about this.”
Eufinger said the Supreme Court also saw widespread substance use as a “horrible crisis” and supported judges creating “special dockets” for drug treatment.
A grant allowed Eufinger, along with individuals from the court, children’s services, the Mental Health and Recovery Board and therapists, to travel to Colorado to learn how to properly establish a drug court.
The Family Treatment Court was established in 2007 and serves parents battling substance abuse. Participants complete a treatment program and work to improve their parenting skills.
Likewise, the Juvenile Treatment Court, established in March 2010, assists children with criminal behaviors, substance use and mental health challenges.
Participants are in court once a week during their treatment, but have some type of contact with the court nearly every day, Eufinger said.
While the programs can be “overwhelming” at first, Eufinger said participants have told her that the drug court “has put my life back in a situation where I can be in control.”
In her time practicing law, she said the focus has shifted to providing treatment and opportunities for rehabilitation to those struggling with addiction.
“It’s working,” she said of programs like drug courts.
Eufinger said she will never forget the face of one woman at her graduation from drug court.
“I can still see her and her sister sobbing because of how it changed their lives,” Eufinger said.
She said she will always cherish the moments she has witnessed families coming together again.
“It’s most rewarding when you see children reunited with their parents,” Eufinger said.
Union County Guardianship Services, established in 2011, is another program through which families are brought together, Eufinger said.
She said many individuals who serve as legal guardians locally are family members of adults who cannot care for themselves.
They are “everyday people,” Eufinger said, who “give up a lot” because they are moved to help others.
“It’s an honor to be able to hear stories of how they live and take care of each other,” she said.
Eufinger said it’s only appropriate that her time as Judge revolved around families, just as her personal life and private law career did.
“It’s a celebration,” she said.
In her retirement, Eufinger said she is looking forward to spending time with her family and traveling to visit with friends once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
She said she hopes to read more, practice her Spanish language skills and learn to play the guitar. She may also take classes at Ohio State “without having to take tests and turn in papers.”
No matter what she’s doing, though, she said she will stay involved in the community.
“I genuinely like people and I genuinely like the people in Union County,” Eufinger said.
The former judges pictured above represent more than 60 years of service in the Union County Probate and Juvenile Court. Judge Charlotte Coleman Eufinger, left, served from 2003-21, judge Robert Allen, center, served from 1960-79, and judge Gary McKinley, served from 1979-2003. Judge Rick Rodger recently took the bench after being elected in November. (Photo submitted)
...For the full story, select an option below.