Legendary Huntington attorney Jim St. Clair has died after a long illness, his son, Sam St. Clair, has said. He was 85 years old.
St. Clair practiced law for 41 years from 1961 to 2002, successfully managing a three-person law firm. However, he will be remembered for his dedication to Huntington’s landmarks, including the historic B&O Railroad Station which became Heritage Village. It was president of Huntington Realty Corporation; Town and Country Mall Inc., Former director of: First Huntington National Bank; Central Realty; CJ .Hughes Construction Company; Construction company JBL; General Allied Oil and Gas Company (a company listed on the Vancouver Stock Exchange in British Columbia) and other companies.
He has served many non-profit organizations both locally and internationally. St Clair has lectured extensively on law practice management; trial practice; real estate law; commercial law and other subjects at: WV Law School. ABA seminars, state and local bars.
Jim enjoyed sharing his legal knowledge as a volunteer for the American Bar Association, CEELI Projects teaching in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and for eleven months as a Rule of Law Liaison in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Has also taught commercial and real estate law as a volunteer member of the International Senior Lawyers Project in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, South Africa, Zambia and Gaborone, Botswana.
Jim has not forgotten the “little guy”. He could often be found in the office after hours teaching a potential client the basics of law. They have acquired enough case law to represent themselves. Considered gruff by some, he had a heart of gold.
MY LEGAL MENTOR, JIM ST. CLAIRE
“Big Jim” rescued me after being maliciously injured. There was something going on at the criminal and civil level. He concluded the odds of reversing corruption, Jim helped me and taught me how to write appeals. I was deathly depressed at the time, but his mentorship inspired me to work on legal research. He succeeded in broadening my mind to not hate opposition lawyers. He showed me that they were just doing what they were paid to do, even if their portrayal bordered on knowingly violating ethics. He was able to obtain a supposedly “lost” police report on the incident. The appeal was not fully written, I had to answer questions in front of the judges. I got permission to rehearse my presentation in the WV Supreme Court room. Jim taught and trained me pro bono. He said if I got the WV Supreme Court to take the case, he would sign on to represent me.
The last roll of the dice was the Supreme Court of the United States. A legal brief had to be drawn up for the nine judges to assess whether they were interested. His incognito after-hours teaching almost earned him a jacket. The United States Supreme Court nearly accepted the case. Because they were serious, the clerk called me to explain procedurally how to proceed “pro se” (with advice from Jim) on a brief in response. I was told, “You must report” the answer to the question in the transcript. The clerk told me the judges would vote on Friday.” My attorney’s error led to a denial. Six months later, the Supremes took a similar case that had been heard in federal (not state) court. .
Jim saw the promise in me. At one point, he offered to officially walk me through preparing for the Virginia bar exam, where they allowed anyone to take the test without a formal law school. This didn’t happen when my dad died, he asked me for independent calls for him and some who didn’t have a lawyer. One case came from a disabled, deaf and dumb man whose rights had been denied in prison. But he could type. I interviewed him by e-mail and wrote the factual part of the memoir. When Jim’s partner took on a case that caused conflict even for a “consulting” attorney, the late Charles Haden allowed me to “represent” the man on paper. Although I wrote it, the “client” had to sign it and swear to its veracity. The prison had failed to accommodate his disability so he could make a phone call. Judge Haden ruled in favor of the disabled man. He received a meager settlement, but the prison had to bring their practices up so that they did not discriminate against the disabled.
After taking pre-law courses at MU, he would find worthy cases and clients unlikely to find representation. I, then, became a teacher or so. The pro litigant had to learn how to manage his file. I taught them the basics of legal research. Although Jim and I did some preliminary research, more than one lay litigant gave up when they got a taste of legal work. They would have assisted in the preparation of the search for a complaint or a brief. Others learned the process and I stood in the shadows as Jim stood behind me. He read and edited most memoirs. He pointed me to the laws applicable to the case. The pro se person and I then worked together to find case law that applied to the facts.
I wrote one of his legal seminars, which he edited weekly to keep me up to date. He helped me put together a file for the preservation of Keith Albee which was not officially filed. This was a search mission carried out with the blessing of the owner. My doctor took a Save the Keith petition and put it in his waiting room collecting over 500 signatures. I gave it to Congressman Nick Rahall. This project helped mobilize forces for the future of theatre. He could have died a long time from negligence. Fortunately, Derek Hyman and his family decided to donate the structure to Marshall.
After retirement, he kept his hands on projects like the Coin Harvey House and helped his son Sam get interested in the Appalachian Film Festival.
As a quirk of his training, I learned to analyze both sides of cases. Then we discussed hypotheses without making them personal. One of the most difficult challenges of working with individuals was persuading that their version of events would not be taken as true.
When Jim started to age, I missed his trial stories and those where the lawyer had to be a quasi “shrink”. At the same time, I participated in the religious community PROWL, partly sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church. They needed a youth minister. I told him about the talents of a young woman who was then the student leader of PROWL. He took my suggestion seriously. The church board hired her for the part-time position.
“Big Jim” traveled the world. His travels usually included volunteer work. He shared what he had learned with people from low and middle income groups. When working with those clients who couldn’t pay the legal fees, some expressed their gratitude by bringing pizza or other snacks to cool off during a work session as he shared stories of old battles. legal.
Now Jim tells stories to saints and angels.