For the past 22 years of his judgeship, North Little Rock District Court Judge Jim Hamilton has followed the lead of his mentor Judge John Ward and offered up a prayer before entering the courtroom.
“Each morning as I time the three steps to the door that leads to the courtroom, I pause, I kneel down for a moment, I place my thumb on the pencil markings of six letters I have written on the door frame. The letters W, P, U help me to remember that part of my small prayer where I ask God to grant me wisdom, patience and understanding,” Hamilton said. “The letters P, A, P serve the next step in the prayer as I seek the strength from God to avoid my pride, my arrogance and my prejudice which are always fighting to get in the way.”
Hamilton, who will retire in January after 50 years in the legal profession, was honored at a Sept. 30 luncheon following the 22nd annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock.
The Mass, attended by area judges, lawyers and government officials, is sponsored by the Diocese of Little Rock and the St. Thomas More Society of Arkansas. The society, formed in 1999 for legal and government professionals, is devoted to St. Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers, judges and government officials.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor concelebrated Mass with Father Gregory Luyet, judicial vicar and chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society, Msgr. Francis I. Malone, chancellor for ecclesial affairs and adjutant judicial vicar, and Father Jack Vu and Father Joseph Chan, rector and associate pastor at the Cathedral. Deacons Noel Bryant and Matt Glover, both members of the society, also served at the altar.
Knights of Columbus members and students from the William H. Bowen School of Law also attended.
During his homily, Bishop Taylor emphasized the tough decisions that must be made by those in the legal profession and that they should “pray for fortitude and for piety and fear of the Lord,” going on to explain that fear of the Lord, “means being more concerned to please him than we are worried about the unpleasant or even predictable fall out that comes from doing his will and speaking his sometimes unpopular truth.”
Assistant North Little Rock City Attorney Paula Juels Jones, who will step into Hamilton’s role as district judge in January, and Little Rock District Court Judge Vic Fleming spoke of Hamilton’s commitment to his work and personal friendship.
“He has administered not just justice but also wisdom,” Fleming said, “and if you’ve watched closely in his courtroom, you’ve seen that he has done this with a sly wit, a dry sense of humor and a profound grasp, not only of that which is wise, a rare enough commodity for a judge, wisdom, but also in many instances what is sensible, advisable and necessary for a criminal defendant standing in front of him to get on with his or her life by tweaking this or that detail that seems like it might be out of kilter by some objectively measurable principle.”
Hamilton served in various roles throughout his career, including five years as deputy prosecuting attorney, 13 years as city attorney as well as private practice and then his election in 1994 as North Little Rock District Court judge in the criminal division. He has been active in several civic and service organizations and currently serves on the Review Board for the diocesan safe environment program.
Hamilton tried to hold back tears while thanking his wife Nancy, their four children and his colleagues for their love and support.
“I get my help from prayer,” Hamilton told Arkansas Catholic. “When you start relying on yourself, that’s when you start messing up.”
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