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In re Hamm

Arizona Supreme Court
123 P.3d 652 (2005)


Facts

In 1974, James Hamm (defendant) committed two murders and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Hamm was sentenced to life in prison, where he was a model prisoner. After being paroled in 1992, Hamm graduated from the Arizona State University College of Law. Hamm passed the July 1999 Arizona bar exam, but was denied admission to practice law by the Character and Fitness Committee (Committee). The Committee conducted a formal hearing in 2004 and considered testimony from Hamm, his wife, and three lawyers who had worked with Hamm, in addition to letters submitted in support and opposition of Hamm’s admission. Although Hamm told the Committee that he accepted responsibility for his prior crime, Hamm consistently assigned responsibility to his accomplice. Hamm also testified that he did not intend to kill his victims, even though the record showed otherwise. Moreover, Hamm failed to fulfill parental obligations to his son for over 30 years. Hamm did not make any attempt to provide for his son until 2004, when he applied for admission to practice law. Although Hamm told the Committee that his son had been adopted and refused Hamm’s support, his son testified more credibly to the contrary. Hamm also failed to truthfully answer a question on his Character and Fitness Report involving a physical altercation between him and his wife. The Committee concluded that Hamm had failed to establish the requisite character and fitness for admission to practice law. Hamm petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court for review. However, Hamm failed to properly cite to sources in his petition and refused to acknowledge that the conduct was improper.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (McGregor, C.J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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