Palestine Magazine October 2018 - Page 9

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT Returning to the bench Renaissance attorney begins new chapter in 50-year career T en years after leaving the bench, where he served as district judge, to open his own law practice, Jim Parsons is returning to the bench, this time by assignment. Parsons, 76, said he makes a career change about once a decade. This time around, he wanted to become, in effect, a traveling district judge. On Sept. 26, Parsons was notified by the Supreme Court of Texas of his appointment to be a senior judge. Parsons could fill in for judges who are unable to oversee a trial for health or other reasons. Parsons, who graduated with an un undergraduate degree from Baylor University and a law degree from the University of Houston 50 years ago, began practicing law in 1968. Somewhere along the line, he became known as the Renaissance Man, a moniker he wears with some pride. It might help explain the intellectual restlessness that leads him to a career change every 10 years or so. As befits a renaissance man, he is also an author and lecturer in trial procedure and technique. From 1996 to 2007, he served as third district judge, including Anderson County. He enjoyed his 10 years on the bench, but left to open his law practice in Palestine. He then decided to get back on the bench. “I have been practicing law for 50 years,” he said. “It was time for a change. I missed it.” Parsons, who has lived in Palestine for the last 49 years, was the president of the State Bar of Texas for one year after serving on the board of directors for three years. The Texas Board of Corrections honored Parsons in 1985-86. As a practicing attorney, Parsons has handled mostly civil cases. As a judge, he has had to oversee criminal and civil trials. On and off the bench, he has participated in more than 300 jury trials. In 50 years of practicing law, Parsons has learned that lawyers and judges are priests in the temple of justice. In practice, they have to determine when to fight and when to concede. He also used a phrase from legendary NFL Coach Vince Lombardi to explain his character: “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he hold dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.” After his 50th year of working as either a judge or lawyer, Parsons reflected on his career, recalling his swearing in on Sep. 16, 1968, by an appellate judge in Houston in the judge’s chambers. Palestine attorney Charles Nichols, who has known Parsons for 38 years, remembers the demeanor Parsons displayed as a district judge. “He’s a real good lawyer,” Nichols said. “I appeared in front of him. He has a good mind in legal matters, and shows judicial composure in running the courtroom.” When Parsons was named president of the Texas State Bar, it helped put Palestine on the map with other attorneys, Nichols said. “Judges have to be calm, cool, and collected, and Jim was that way in handling rowdy lawyers,” he said. “He’s very knowledgeable of the law. He believes in the jury system.” He also said Parsons believes judges should not be appointed but elected by the voters. Parsons said lawyering takes a lot of time and energy. “At 76 it takes a lot of lot of physical and emotional turmoil to file lawsuits,” he said. “At this age, with my experience, it’s a natural fit.” OCTOBER 2018 9