In Memoriam: Judge Peggy Fulton Hora

Respectfully submitted by Brian MacKenzie and David Wallace

The judicial education world has lost a giant. Judge Peggy Fulton Hora, a global leader in the field of judicial education and a pioneering leader in the development of Drug Treatment Courts, passed away on Saturday, October 31, 2020. 

As the first woman judge in South Alameda County (California), Judge Hora led the effort to establish the second Drug Treatment Court in the USA. She was one of the founding members of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) in 1994.  In 1999, she co-authored a landmark article published in the Notre Dame Law Journal, “Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Drug Treatment Court Movement: Revolutionizing the Criminal Justice System’s Response to Drug Abuse and Crime in America.”

Judge Hora focused on improving judicial education. She became a facility member at the B.E. Witkin Judicial College of California, and ultimately, it’s dean. Judge Hora joined the faculty of the National Judicial College (NJC) where she taught for 27 years and she was recognized as a Distinguished Faculty member. In 2017, she was honored by the College with the V. Robert Payant Award it’s highest award for Teaching Excellence. NJC President Benes Aldana recently described her as both: “a force of nature and
irreplaceable”.

After 21 years on the bench Judge Hora retired, but that did not mean sitting at home watching tv.  She continued working on what she was most passionate about—educating judges and other members of the justice community.

Judge Hora was an international leader in the solution-focused courts movement and wrote comprehensively on justice issues. Her international work included speaking at conferences worldwide and hands-on training on Drug Courts and therapeutic jurisprudence in Israel, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Chile, Bermuda, South Africa, Italy, Pakistan, France,
Japan, Russia, Sweden, The Netherlands, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Judge Hora was a Senior Judicial Fellow for the National Drug Court Institute and the Global Centre for Drug Treatment Courts.

In 2009-2010 Judge Hora was appointed by the Premier of South Australia as a Thinker in Residence to study and make recommendations on the Australian justice system. She once stated her appointment was one of the greatest honors she ever received.  She was also a visiting scholar at the University of Tasmania School of Law. 

Judge Hora’s passion for Treatment Courts led her to New Zealand where she was instrumental in the creation of its Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment (AODT) Courts. She was an Honorary President of the International Therapeutic Jurisprudence Society, a worldwide non-profit organization dedicated to advancing legal and interdisciplinary
scholarship; identifying and promoting best professional practices; sponsoring conferences, workshops and seminars; and, hosting and participating in print, electronic and social media platforms. The society named a judicial award for her work in the field.

In 2015, when she was nearing age 70, she shifted gears from a life of public service to trying her hand as an entrepreneur and capitalist becoming one of the founding members of the Justice Speakers Institute (JSI). She co-edited the landmark Science Bench Book for Judges for the NJC that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer endorsed as a “helpful and necessary effort” for the judiciary. Her efforts led JSI to become a leader in the education
of justice system leaders worldwide.

She was a recipient of the Bernard S. Jefferson Judicial Education Award from the California Judges’ Association and winner of the Rose Bird Award from California Women Lawyers. She was honored as Woman of the Year by the California legislature. She is also a recipient of the Distinguished Leadership Award from NADCP and added into the Drug Court Hall of Fame in 2002. Throughout her career she was recognized and honored for her
work.

Judge Hora had a sharp mind and loved to laugh.  For a laugh, she would mention a favorite story of hers when she was sitting as a judge hearing a minor traffic case which had dragged on and on.  After denying a motion for an adjournment, the defendant meanly stated “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.”  Judge Hora then sang “Guilt-teeee!”  She loved music, where many times she would just break out in some random song that crossed her
mind. 

But it was the stories about the Drug Court participants and the lives she changed that mattered to her. Those individuals were an inspiration to her; just as she was an inspiration to them and to those of us in the Drug Court Treatment Field.

Always in search of fine food or that special restaurant or diner to have a unique meal, she happily acknowledged being a “foodie.”  To the point that at the last JSI business meeting to relax one evening, she produced the board game Foodie Fight.  The other partners knew who was going to win that night.

Judge Hora lived life to the fullest, with few regrets, and friends on six of the seven continents, and in countries around the globe.  She changed lives, inspired those around her, and made the world a better place to live.  Our partner, and more importantly our friend, will be missed.

In recognition of her extraordinary support of the National Judicial College, it established an endowment in her name that could fund education for judges from all over the world.  If you are interested in donating to that endowment, click here. JSI can think of no more appropriate recognition of her life.