The Bowen law school can count on its graduates. In ways small and large, to attend events and mentor new students and serve on committees and make donations, Bowen graduates stand behind their school. The quiet, dignified gentleman who is a walking model for the description above is the newest member of the Arkansas Supreme Court, Associate Justice Paul Danielson.
Justice Danielson, an active member of the Bowen Law Alumni Board, is the soul of professional ethics for law students looking for someone to emulate. He and his wife Betsy both graduated from the Little Rock law school during the years of affiliation with UA-Fayetteville. Elizabeth "Betsy" Danielson, a Logan County native, has been an administrative law judge based in Fort Smith for the Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission and was also appointed to the state Court of Appeals by then-Governor Bill Clinton.
Since beginning his term on the Supreme Court, Justice Danielson became interested in technology in the courtroom and received approval from the entire Court for an exploratory committee to move toward electronic filing, resulting in attorneys now having the choice of filing briefs electronically with both the Supreme Court and the Arkansas Court of Appeals. He has also proposed a Pilot Program in Mediation at the appellate level, which if approved will be managed through the Arkansas Dispute Resolution Commission.
When asked about his legal career, Justice Danielson recalls that at agel4, he became acquainted with a few attorneys and decided that he wanted a career in law. "It's what I worked for, stayed after, and it happened," Danielson said. Judge Danielson served four years in the U.S. Air Force, entering law school here while still stationed at the Little Rock Air Force Base. Earning his J.D. with honors, Judge Danielson also was on Law Review and clerked for Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Frank Holt after graduation. He went on to the private practice of law in Fort Smith, eventually settling in nearby Booneville, his wife's hometown. It was in Booneville that they brought up son Erik, now also an attorney, and it was there that he served for eight years as deputy prosecuting attorney and as Booneville city attorney. It also was in
Booneville that Justice Danielson began his judicial career, successfully running for 15th District Circuit judge in 1995, a position he held 12 years, until he was sworn in as Justice this past January.
His performance as Circuit Judge was recognized when he was named Outstanding Trial Judge of the Year by the Arkansas Trial Lawyer Association in 2003. ATLA announced that Danielson was chosen because he exemplified experience gained in a diverse private practice, practical knowledge and insight from broad-based community involvement and a background that nurtured other outstanding attorneys and judges. Attorneys commenting on Danielson's years as Circuit judge say that he's always practiced the highest standards whatever position he occupies. He always went out of his way to work with all the attorneys and to resolve disputes, they report. One colleague remarked, "As a judge, he was always real patient and took a lot of time with new attorneys. He always tried to encourage them."
Justice Danielson is quite the sportsman. He was a star high school pitcher who once threw a "perfect game". He also was on the tennis team at Florida State University and has continued his tennis playing. The Justice is also a low handicap golfer and has participated in many tournaments throughout Arkansas.
Danielson has served as Arkansas Judicial Council member, past chairman and a member of the Supreme Court Liaison Committee, member of the Arkansas Bar Association Liaison Committee and the Legislative Liaison Committee. He is a Fellow of the Arkansas Bar Foundation. "One of my beliefs is the secret to happiness is reaching your full potential, and serving on the Supreme Court is a real privilege. I feel like you ought to push the envelope if you have the chance to reach the top of your field, you should go for it," Justice Danielson said.