Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

TOP STORY > > Judge retires after 18 years

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

Two weeks into his retirement, Lonoke Circuit Judge Lance Han-shaw is taking it easy.
So far his activities have included taking his granddaughter to the airport for her trip back to college, making plans for drinking coffee with his friends and considering the honey-do list his wife is drafting, but real work could be in his not too distant future.
State law prohibits Hanshaw him from holding office since he turned 70 in October, but he could be on the bench again since he is on the list to serve as a special judge much like retired teachers work as substitutes.
“The good thing about being a special judge is that you can take cases or you can turn them down. You can travel around the state or you can hear cases locally,” Hanshaw said.
When he will be called is not known because 17 judges retired in Arkansas in 2008 and some of them will join the other retirees who serve as special judges when they are called.
Hanshaw said many are like him; they retired at 70 because staying on the bench would mean the loss of their retirement.
Hanshaw, who served 18 years as the Division 1 circuit judge in the 23rd Judicial District, announced his retirement in November 2007 to give prospective candidates time to decide if they wanted to run.
Barbara Elmore, who was appointed in July 2007 to the bench of the newly created Division 3, was the Division 1 winner over Deputy Prosecutor Chuck Graham. Phillip Whiteaker retained his Division 2 position with a win over Prosecutor Lona McCastlain. Hanshaw’s son-in-law, Sandy Huckabee, ran unopposed and took Elmore’s Division 3 position.
Admitted to the bar in 1962, Hanshaw clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlton Harris prior to joining the Air Force as an attorney in the judge advocate general’s office.
He also served in the Arkansas attorney general’s office before entering private law practice in Little Rock in 1968.
Elected Lonoke County circuit judge in 1990, Hanshaw had previously served as district judge in Cabot, Austin, Ward and Lonoke for a total of 12 years and has had a private law practice in Cabot since 1977.
While on the bench, he was named Outstanding Arkansas Trial Judge of the Year.
Hanshaw has had high-profile cases. His first jury trial was for the murder of Cabot High School student Rodney Spence, who was his son’s friend.
He also presided over the sentencing of the infamous child rapist Jack Walls III, the son of a circuit judge. But he said the cases involving children were the ones he often couldn’t stop thinking about at the end of the day.
“You’re always concerned about how the children are doing,” he said.
Hanshaw said most children he has tried to help have never contacted him, but a few have. Over the years he has received letters from some thanking him for placing them in better homes and some have even sent him pictures of their children.
Every case has some impact on a judge, Hanshaw said, and he admits, “I wasn’t ready to retire. I still had a lot of good work left in me, but it does open the door for younger people.”