CRIMINAL
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James D. Hills Criminal Defense Attorney

James Hills of Hills Law Office
James D. Hills

Biography

Jim was born in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois to Louis and Margaret Hills. He has an older brother Louis and a younger sister Lynn.

In the summers, Jim’s family traveled to St. Joseph County Michigan where they spent their summers on Fisher Lake. Jim was an avid water skier and competed regularly in tournaments. He was the first person to barefoot ski on Fisher Lake. He is the current president of the Fisher Lake Association, having held that volunteer position since 2010.

Jim graduated from Western Michigan University in 1962 and from Valparaiso School of Law in 1965. Thereafter Jim joined Hannah and Kreuger in Musegon Heights as a law clerk. He was sworn into the state bar of Michigan by Judge Raymond Fox in 1966. One week later he landed at Fort Dix New Jersey as an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army.

Two weeks into basic training after his Sergeant collapsed from a heart attack, Jim was “awarded” an armband indicating he was a staff sergeant (despite being an E-1) and commanded the platoon. The captain trained Jim at night and Jim trained his platoon during the day. Along the way, he taught reading to many of the draftees. Eventually he made his way to the JAG office at Fort Benning, Georgia.

James and Margaret (Maggie) Hills, the love of his life, were married in 1963 (51 years so far). Maggie, an elementary school teacher for over 50 years, is deservedly retiring this year.

Jim left Fort Benning on a Friday in 1968 and began the very next Monday as an assistant prosecutor for Kalamazoo County under then Prosecuting Attorney Donald Burge. Within two weeks, Jim lost his first jury trial. It was a speeding ticket and the defendant (Richard Nixon) was a pro-per defendant equipped with maps and diagrams.

Before leaving the Prosecutor’s office Jim trained the newest assistant prosecutor James Gregart. Mr. Gregart sat 2nd chair as Jim tried three felony cases back to back in 11 days, each new trial starting as the last jury left to deliberate.

After leaving the prosecutor’s office, Jim began private practice, working for Ralph Birkhold from 1970 – 1977. Jim estimates he tried on average two criminal cases per week, usually more, during this time.

Kalamazoo Lawyer James D. Hills
James D. Hills

Also during the 1970’s, Jim and Richard Lamb (both defense counsel at the time) were appointed special prosecuting attorneys by Judge Raymond Fox, reporting only to Judge Fox. Their mandate was to investigate and prosecute corruption within the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. Richard Lamb and Jim investigated, prosecuted and convicted the individuals involved.

Jim stepped out on his own in 1977, starting from scratch. He had one card table, four folding chairs, a phone and no clients. From there his reputation as a trial attorney grew as did his client base.

Jim estimates he has tried somewhere between 20 – 30 murder cases, and resolved many others. These include cold cases, single murders, a double murder and a serial killer. He has tried cases in 18 counties in Michigan as well as Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee, in both state and federal courts. It is unknown how many trials he has had over his 49-year career, but the number is no doubt large.

Michael Hills joined his father’s firm in 1999 and they tried their first two cases together within a year; an attempted murder and a murder, not guilty on both. Many more trials followed, but not always with the same result. Jerry Hopkins, Becket Jones and Jessica LaFond now round out the firm.

Currently, Jim claims he is semi-retired. He is still active in the firm, assisting associate attorneys with their files. Jim is always available to help in any way he can, except of course, when he is in Mexico.

Jim has always volunteered for the benefit of his community. Jim has taught law classes at the Sheriff’s Department, participated in numerous mock trials – including for the Police Academy cadets for the last 10 years. He has also sponsored and coached rocket football, baseball, soccer teams: always the volunteer to help and never asking anything in return.

Law Education

  • Valparaiso School of Law Valparaiso, Indiana Juris Doctor 1965
  • Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, Michigan Bachelor of Arts 1962

Court Room Experience

  • Admitted to practice in all Michigan courts, United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1979 - present: Limited practice to criminal cases both state and federal. Also represented clients charged with criminal offenses in the state courts of Indiana, Tennessee, Louisiana and Florida
  • 1970 - present: Private practice handling civil and criminal cases
  • 1970: Senior Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Kalamazoo County, Michigan
  • 1968 - 1969: Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Kalamazoo County, Michigan
  • 1966 - 1968: United States Army enlisted man and worked in the Judge Advocate General's Office, Fort Benning, Georgia
  • 1965 - 1966: Law clerk of legal office in Muskegon, Michigan

Professional Law Career 

  • Member of the Kalamazoo Trial Lawyers Association
  • Past state secretary of the Fraternal Order of Police Associates
  • Lecturer at classes for Kalamazoo County Sheriff s Department Reserves Participant in mock trials for American Civil Liberties Union

Non-Professional

  • 1979 - 1982 Sponsor of a NASCAR race team on the Winston (now Nextel) Cup Circuit 1982 - 1983 Sponsor of Portage High School Junior Varsity Club teams
  • Past Commissioner of AYSO in Portage, Michigan Supporter of Mendon football teams in Mendon, Michigan

Contact James D. Hills today

If you or a family member are in trouble with the law, give us a call at 866-819-1504 or Contact Us, we can help.

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