Just prior to a confirmation docket in September of 2006, a local creditor attorney asked me if I would be interested in coming to work at his firm. The chapter 13 trustee was in the room and could not help but overhear. After the docket that trustee asked me if I was looking for a job. I wasn’t . . . but I believe my response was “Well, maybe. Why?”
It’s strange how we frequently don’t recognize pivotal moments in our lives while we are in the moment. I could not have anticipated where that one “eavesdropped” conversation would lead. Fast forward to September of 2022. That Trustee, Jan Hamilton, has been my boss, and a dear friend, for the last 16 years. It has been a wild and crazy ride. And now, he is retiring after being a Chapter 13 Trustee for 24 years.
Jan graduated from Washburn University Law School in 1973 (the year I was born, I occasionally remind him). Prior to and during law school, he played all the hits as “Jumpin’ Jay,” a late-night disc jockey for KEWI 1440 radio in Topeka, Kansas. After graduating, he worked as inhouse counsel and operations manager for KEWI.
When asked about Jan, fellow trustee Kathy Leavitt had this to say: “When I think of Jan . . .
- Never a dull moment.
- Always a thoughtful, intelligent comment.
- Never passes an opportunity to share a comical (or cynical) observation.
- Love his sense of humor!
- Impressive physical drive.
- Rock ‘n Roll!”
She enthusiastically added a personal message to Jan: “Jan, wishing you the best in retirement. Do it with gusto!”
After leaving KEWI, Jan entered private practice. He dabbled in many areas, and with his outgoing personality, he excelled at litigation. But, making a living as a new attorney in private practice is hard. Jan was looking for a niche. He needed an area of law practice where he could truly make a name for himself. Enter the Bankruptcy Code of 1978. By happenstance, he learned of a bankruptcy seminar being held across the country. He spent his last dollars to attend that seminar, and immediately knew he’d found his place. The rest, as they say, is history.
After working in private practice for 25 years, Jan became the Standing Chapter 13 Trustee in Topeka, Kansas in 1998. He explained that a good friend told him that it would be a relaxing, good “retirement-type” job – that he’d have plenty of time to spend with his true loves: running, hiking and riding his bike. The joke was on him. Oh, sure, he’s been able to get in his hiking and biking. (I refer to his annual Bike Across Kansas and RAGBRAI (a ride across Iowa) trips as “Jan’s Yearly Tour of Dairy Queens”.) But it did not take long for him to realize that administering thousands of bankruptcy cases was going to be no easy task. And, he never took his trustee duties lightly.
Jan has been committed to improving chapter 13 bankruptcy practice for all players. He has been a prolific contributor to bankruptcy publications and a frequent presenter at bankruptcy seminars.
Jan is particularly well known as a favorite panelist at NACTT seminars. Not only as a panelist but as an attendee, Jan has made a name for himself. “You could always count on Jan to take the mic at the annual seminar and ask a question that didn’t have an answer” playfully quipped Honorable Keith M. Lundin (retired).
Jan was also an integral part of the upstart of ConsiderChapter13.org. “Few will ever know how much Jan helped and encouraged me in the infancy days of ConsiderChapter13.org. Jan was a mentor and confidant advising me through many technology and business minefields. He has become a trusted friend who I will miss seeing but intend to stay in touch with” stated Regina Logsdon, Executive Director of The Academy d/b/a ConsiderChapter13.org. “I love you, Jan, and wish you all the best – especially sunshine, sweat, dog hair, and great hiking boots.”
He is well known for his willingness to assist attorneys with their practice. If you are an attorney who has had the opportunity to work with Jan in any capacity, then your interactions with him have likely made you a better attorney (and probably better person in general). I am gratefully aware that my work with Jan has made me a better attorney and, more importantly, a better human. I can tell you from firsthand experience what a kind and generous person Jan is. He never shies away from the broken or downtrodden. I am proud to call him my friend and mentor.
“It is rare to meet a razor-sharplegal professional who can advocate – on either side of an issue – with the best of them but who is also pleasant and fun to be around. Such a soul is Jan Hamilton. I always enjoy chatting with Jan because he really makes what we do seem like fun. And it should be. He has shown us all that we need to smile once in a while, and I thank him for that.” Henry E. Hildebrand, III, Trustee Nashville, Tennessee.
No one deserves many years of happy, healthy retirement more than Jan Hamilton. Farewell and happy trails, my friend.
Dear friend and fellow trustee Bill Griffin had difficulty putting into words his feelings: “I/we will miss him so much it’s impossible to describe the loss. He’s a dear friend whose legal skills are unsurpassed. Laurie Williams and I went to the Supreme Court to observe his oral arguments in Lanning. He was the best! Before and during the oral arguments I sat next to a former clerk for Justice Rehnquist. She was very impressed with Jan’s abilities, commenting that she had seen many oral arguments and that Jan was really good, one of the best!”
Griffin further commented, “He’s been a backup and confidant to many bar members over the years offering advice and guidance. Always lending a helping hand.”
Jan is known for his entertaining antics, both in and out of the courtroom. He is by all accounts, a magnificent wordsmith. He has an uncanny ability to properly use the fifth definition of a word in casual conversation. (I know because I look them up.)
He is known for his colorful phrases,even on the record, that I call “Janisms”. The following is a sampling of a few notable Janisms:
“You can put a kitten in an oven, but that doesn’t make it a muffin”
“Even a blind sow finds an acorn every once in a while.”
“The time to settle a case is before you’ve lost.”
“We need to show them how the cow ate the cabbage.”
“We need to break them of sucking eggs.”
“We need to hang a coyote hide on the fence.”