James Hill is and has been an active trial attorney in the Bismarck law firm, Zuger Kirmis and Smith since 1981. He came to the firm directly from the from the US Attorney’s Office in Bismarck where he had served as a trial attorney for five years as an Assistant US Attorney. A 1974 graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Law he entered a federal court clerkship for two years before joining the US Attorney’s Office. He is a Grand Forks, ND native. His wife, Charlotte, is the Senior High School Librarian at Bismarck High School. Their daughter, Sarah, is a medical student at Harvard University Medical School, Boston.
Hill has engaged in primarily a civil litigation practice throughout his career. He has been certified in Civil Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1994. He is also Certified in Civil Practice Advocacy. He concentrates his trial practice in areas of professional malpractice defense, product liability, insurance defense, business torts and railroad litigation. A great deal of his practice had involved representing lawyers in both the civil and ethics venues. He has appeared numerous times as an advocate before the ND Supreme Court.
He is a past President of the ND State Bar Association and presently serves as the representative of the SBAND in the House of Delegates of the ABA a position he has held since 1994. He recently completed a three year term on the ABA Board of Governors. He is a recipient of the American Inns of Court Award for Professionalism for the Eighth Circuit and is a recipient of the SBAND Distinguished Service Award. He is and has been active in numerous bar related and community activities among those terms on the SBAND Ethics Committee, the Judicial Conduct Commission, Inquiry Committee West, the Commission for Continuing Legal Education and the North Dakota Administrative Council . He is an active member of the Missouri Valley YMCA and served as the President of the Board of Directors of that entity in past days.
During my years in practice, I have engaged intensely in a very broad range of activities within the State Bar Association, (SBAND), the South Central Judicial District Bar Association, the Burleigh County (now Big Muddy) Bar Association and the American Bar Association. In my position as a Delegate to the American Bar Association from SBAND I have had the privilege to sit as a member of the Board of Governors of the State Bar Association.
Among my bar activities I served as a member of the Commission for Continuing Legal Education for six years, the last four of which I served as its chairman. During that time frame, our commission instituted major changes in the structure of the Commission. We also re-drafted the rules for the Commission which allowed the Commission and, in effect, the State Bar Association, to assume responsibility of certifying to the Supreme Court those individuals who have completed their requirements under the continuing legal education program and also certifying those who have failed to do so which results in suspension from the practice of law.
The changes to the Commission were cited by the 1989 report of the special committee on the unified bar as a "model for bar administered programs establishing standards for all members of the SBAND." Today we have an outstanding CLE commission comprised solely of SBAND members controlling the entire process, including the disciplinary function all with the concurrence of the Supreme Court.
I have also served as a member of Inquiry Committee West of SBAND (lawyer discipline) for four years and served as its chair for two years. As chair I oversaw the transition of the Inquiry Committee West from an organization comprised solely of attorneys to an entity which is now comprised of both lawyers and lay individuals.
I also served as the only lawyer member and eventually as chair of the Judicial Conduct Commission in North Dakota. In that capacity I was chair of the panel which heard and decided the matter involving Judge Michael O. McGuire, see, Judicial Conduct Commission v. McGuire, 2004 ND 171. I served as a Member of the Ethics Committee of the North Dakota State Bar Association for 12 years. The federal courts within the District of North Dakota some years ago organized a Federal Practice Committee in association with the State Bar Association and with the request of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in order to direct information to the federal practitioner. I served as chairman of that committee for the first three years of its existence.
In 1987-88, I served as a member of the Board of Governors of the State Bar Association as a representative of the South Central Judicial District. In June 1990, I was elected President-Elect of SBAND. During my year as President, we re-vamped the accounting structure and hired a new executive director. In 1994, I was elected State Bar Association delegate to the ABA, a position I presently hold. In that position I continue to serve on the Board of Governors of SBAND. I was recently elected the State Delegate for North Dakota on the ABA House of Delegates.
This past August I completed a three year term on the 38 member ABA Board of Governors, a position I was elected to in 2010. Very North Dakota lawyers have had that opportunity, the last being Judge Kermit Edward Bye.
I have in my legal career served on a number of taskforces in State Bar Association. I was a member of the Joint Commission on Lawyer Discipline and Admissions whose primary function was to re-write the disciplinary rules governing the members of this Association. It was a commission that evolved out of a proposal I had made to the Supreme Court on behalf of our Association to address concerns raised by the American Bar Association through the McKay Report which addressed lawyer discipline on a national level. I was also a member of the Multi-Jurisdictional Practice of Law Taskforce of SBAND which has recently presented its recommendations to the North Dakota Supreme Court concerning the ethical and rule changing issues that are associated with a national trend towards allowing multi- jurisdictional law practice a matter back on the agenda of the ABA.
I have also been a strong advocate for and have contributed to a proposed Lawyers Diversion Program which traveled through the Joint Attorney Standards Committee and which was approved by the North Dakota Supreme Court. I appeared before the Court to advocate its creation. The general concept was to create a mechanism that could be used to divert impaired lawyers from the disciplinary system and into a treatment program. I have gone through the qualifying process and am qualified to act as a Mentor under the existing program.
I was one of the organizers of the first American Inn of Court established in North Dakota. I served as the first president of the Bruce M. Van Sickle American Inn of Court from 1993-1995. This is national organization dedicated to developing a deeper sense of professionalism, achieving higher levels of excellence and furthering the practice of law with dignity and integrity.
Board of Governors-American Bar Association, Representing District 10 from August 2010 – August 2013
Operations and Communications Committee-Board of Governors Membership Subcommittee, Member and Chair - Committee for Special Presidential Awards
Liaison Assignments as BOG Member:
Labor and Employment Law Section ABA Commission on IOLTA
ABA Death Penalty Representation Project
ABA Standing Committee on Professional Discipline
American Bar Association-Committee Membership Member, Center for Professional Responsibility
Member Litigation Section
Member Tort and Insurance Practice Section
Appointed Member, ABA Governance Committee 2013 Appointed Member, ABA Nominating Committee 2013-2016
Appointed Member, ABA Gun Violence Advisory Committee 2013 Appointed Member, ABA Technology and Communications Committee
North Dakota State Delegate to ABA House elected 2013 Nominating Committee Elected Member American Bar Foundation-Life Member Big Muddy Bar Association, Bismarck, ND State Bar Association of North Dakota
SBAND Delegate to American Bar Association House of Delegates from ND 1994-2013; Board of Governors 1987-1989; 1990-present
North Dakota Bar Foundation – Gold Patron
Elected Member of the Board of Directors 2008-Present
Bruce M. Van Sickle American Inn of Court, Bismarck, North Dakota Past President, and one of the original founders- Member 1992-2013
North Dakota Judicial Conference 1996-2004 Judicial Compensation Committee
North Dakota Judicial Conduct Commission 1998-2004; Chair, 2003-2004
Sole Attorney Member on this Seven Person Commission International Association of Defense Counsel [IADC] Association of Defense Trial Attorneys [ADTA]
National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel Licensed: North Dakota 1974 and Minnesota 1974
State of North Dakota State of Minnesota
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians Tribal Court,
Three Affiliated Tribes
United States District Court, North Dakota
United States District Court, Minnesota
Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals
United States Supreme Court
Supreme Court Vacancy 2013 News
October 10, 2013