Judge Thomas P. Quirk
Nominee for 2010 Samaritan of the Year Award
Currently Judge Thomas P Quirk is serving a sixth six (6) year term as Lake Charles, City Judge, Ward 3. When his first term began in early 1979 a few months after his 34th birthday he was the youngest ever elected to the bench, and is now the longest sitting judge in this area.
After considering the law, many judges follow standard sentencing guidelines set up by their predecessors which usually result in a fine and or incarceration. This seems a fair description of justice. But justice absent mercy can devastate entire families, rather than restore one criminal offender through traditional sentencing. Judge Quirk, considered the problem of overcrowding in our jails, the economic loss to families when the only source of income is cut off, the loss of educational advancement when classes are interrupted, and the benefits of weekly spiritual support while serving out a sentence, and decided that justice might be served in a better way through alternative sentencing. Thus, the birth of church sentencing was implemented in Lake Charles City Court by the most honorable Judge Thomas P Quirk. He first sentenced someone to attend church in 1992, using it as "an alternative sentence when someone wants to plead guilty to a minor offense but cannot afford a fine."
Within the first year, more than 350 people were sentenced to church.
After 16 plus years, with 400-500 people sentenced annually, between 6000 and 8000 people have been sentenced to church through Judge Quirk's court alone. Since then, other courts have adopted similar programs. Offenders and their families and extended families have been and will forever be affected by the selfless and sacrificial decisions made by Judge Quirk to look beyond the bench into the lives of those standing before him and looking to him for that decision that could change lives dramatically.
In November of 1994, the Judge Quirk was sued by the A.C.L.U. At his own expense, Judge Quirk chose to fight, rather than retreat, at no small expense. The suit would have been dropped if he had been willing to abandon church sentencing. "I'm not going to stop until the courts tell me I've got to," Judge Quirk said. The case was dismissed on the district level. The adversary did not stop there. They then filed a formal complaint to the Louisiana Judiciary Commission to have Judge Quirk removed from office. Again, I wish to remind you that this too would have been dropped had he stopped the church sentencing. But without faltering, and with the excellent and tireless representation by Mr. Michael Veron, justice did prevail. By a rarely seen, unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Louisiana rejected all charges against Judge Quirk December 12, 1997.
A strong advocate of family values, Judge Quirk began a new phase in his career, in 2003. At that time he commenced a practice in mediation; working closely with family court judges, he began helping families resolve issues with unity and or compromise to situations where contention and division prevailed.