James H. McComas

James H. McComas

Trial Lawyer

Key Facts


Jim McComas defended people accused of the most serious crimes for thirty years, in both state and federal courts.

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1978, Jim worked as a trial and appellate attorney at The Public Defender Service, Washington, D.C. In 1983, he was appointed training director, and from 1984 to 1986, Jim was Chief of the Trial Division.

In 1986, Jim went into private practice. He ended up trying and, after a mistrial, retrying a notorious contract murder case two winters in a row in Fairbanks, Alaska. Following his client's acquittal in 1988, Jim and his family moved to Anchorage. Jim's practice focused on homicide cases. He defended Alaskans accused of murder in many trials, lasting from three weeks to more than three months, and usually ending in acquittals.

Jim helped create, and for four years was president of, Alaskans against the Death Penalty, devoting about a quarter of his time to that cause. In 1995, the Alaska Civil Liberties Union named him Civil Libertarian of the Year.

In 2001, Jim represented a public defender targeted by a bad-faith prosecution. The fee was $10, but the work was full-time for nine months. Judge Link's fifty page order remains one of the few written decisions finding that prosecutors acted in actual, institutional bad faith. In May 2002, Jim became the first recipient of the annual Jim McComas Alaskan Champion of Liberty Award, created by the Alaska Academy of Trial Lawyers and the Alaska Criminal Defense Bar.

Throughout his career, Jim also wrote, prepared, and presented CLEs, intensive training programs, and initial public defender training programs, lasting from one day to six weeks.

In 2008, Jim and his wife Anne, a public school speech-language pathologist, retired. They live on the banks of the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in far northern Wisconsin. Jim is the author of Dynamic Cross-Examination: A Whole New Way to Create Opportunities to Win and Case Analysis: Winning Hard Cases against the Odds.

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