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Legally Speaking


Issue: December, 2006
Author: Joseph B. Bluemel

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From the President . . .

It has been two months since my last opportunity to communicate with my friends and colleagues of the Wyoming State Bar. In that brief time, much has happened with the Bar and in all our lives. There have been members who left the active practice of law to take a seat on the bench. I have had the honor to speak on behalf of the Bar at the robing ceremonies of Mike Greer who took his seat in the Circuit Court of the Third Judicial District in Evanston and Steve Cranfill who took his seat in the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District in Cody. Dan Forgey has been appointed to the bench in the Circuit Court of the Third Judicial District in Rock Springs, and John Fenn has been appointed to the bench in the Fourth Judicial District Court in Sheridan. The change in careers from lawyer to judge for these four attorneys is one form of evidence of the changes in the practice of law in Wyoming and our lives. Their clients will miss them, and their roles in the legal system has changed. I wish the best to these new judges and the parties and attorneys who will appear before them.

Upon Steve Cranfill taking his seat on the District Court Bench in Cody he resigned his position as Vice President with the Bar. Rick Lavery of Evanston, Wyoming, who had served as the commissioner from the Third Judicial District, was selected by the Board to fill the vacancy left by Steve. There were three applicants for the position and I thank those applicants for their interest while welcoming Rick to the Board. In addition to the vacancy of Vice President, there was a vacancy for a commissioner from the Fifth Judicial District. Again, there was significant interest for the vacancy and the Board selected Brad Bonner of Powell to fill the vacancy. I welcome Brad to the Board.

Rick and Brad joined the other members of the board in November and participated in the board meeting in Thermopolis. The Board of Officers of the Wyoming State Bar has been hard at work. Nearly a year and a half ago, the Board of Bar Commissioners met in Evanston and set goals for the Bar for the next two years. One of those goals was to raise public awareness of the rule of law and the roles that attorneys and judges have in assuring laws are enforced for our communities. Gay Woodhouse, President-Elect of the Wyoming State Bar, with the assistance and cooperation of Chief Judge Downes and Justice Burke have put together a great program to achieve this goal. They are working with attorneys, judges and clerks of courts throughout the state to put on a great program that will reach from the airwaves of Wyoming Public Television to the schools and courthouses in our communities. This will recognize jurors from all our communities for the vital role they play in our justice system and express to them our appreciation for their service. Besides showing the appreciation lawyers have for the roles of all who serve in our justice system, this program will educate the non-legal community of the importance of judicial independence. Many organizations and individuals are already participating in the planning for this great upcoming event. Watch the Wyoming Lawyer for more information on the statewide juror recognition event and learn how you can participate in this great program that will take place on May 1, 2007.

As described by Michael Messenger in the article he wrote that was published in the October issue of the Wyoming Lawyer, another goal of the Board of Bar Commissioners was to provide assistance to Wyoming lawyers who have alcohol and substance abuse issues. The burden a couple of our colleagues have had in this area has recently been publicized. In order to provide a resource for attorneys who have an addiction, the Wyoming State Bar has entered into a contract with an independent provider, the Wyoming Professional Assistance Program (WPAP) in Casper, to provide confidential, professional assistance to the members of the Wyoming State Bar. I am also pleased to report that the Wyoming Judiciary has recently signed on. The assistance that has been contracted for includes intervention, evaluation, referral, education and monitoring services for Wyoming State Bar members. Although the contract is in place and assistance is currently available and being provided to members of the Bar, the board is working on the finer details of the program to make it more effective. Even though the program strictly protects the confidentiality of those who participate, the Board and Bar staff are evaluating the process to assure no confidential information slips through the cracks. In addition to providing services for addictions, the Board of Bar Commissioners and attorneys who are volunteering their time have worked with WPAP to assure assistance is now available for members who are experiencing depression or other mental health issues. Although this program is progressing nicely, we are currently in need of attorneys and judges in communities throughout the state to assist with interventions. If you are willing to assist, please contact George A. Vandal at (307) 472-1222 or Dr. Burton Toews at (307) 265-3791. Anyone wishing to obtain additional information or seek benefits from this program can contact George Vandal or Dr. Toews. This service is provided in an effort to assist all Wyoming attorneys in raising the bar so we can better practice law and enjoy our profession. I cannot help but believe this program will be of great value to many members of the Bar in years to come. Watch future issues of the Wyoming Lawyer and information from the Bar office for more details about this program to benefit all of us.

Another change or evolution in the practice of law in Wyoming was the licensing and admission of 70 new lawyers this fall. On October 27th an admission ceremony for these newly licensed attorneys and their friends and family began in the Courtroom of the Wyoming Supreme Court. This, as was stated to be the case last year, is the last time any of Wyoming’s new lawyers will be taking the oath in that historied courtroom as it is being remodeled. However, the remodeling continues to be delayed. After the ceremony before the Wyoming Supreme Court, the newly admitted attorneys and their family and friends walked across the street to the Federal Courthouse and a ceremony was held for admission to the Federal Court. As Kay Lynn Bestol said when speaking on behalf of the Board of Law Examiners at the ceremony, we never forget about the circumstances when we heard we passed the bar. The ceremonies reminded me of the day that I took my oath to practice law in Wyoming and the federal court. My wife and parents were present and it was a joyous, carefree day. I never have been able to enter either of those courtrooms since without experiencing anxiety and stress. After the swearing in ceremonies, the Bar then hosted a luncheon for the new admittees. You new attorneys are the future of the Wyoming State Bar. Welcome to our community. Events like this make it clear that we are truly privileged to live and practice law in Wyoming.

On a final note, I wish to recognize another change in career. Sandy Inniss has been a member of the Bar staff since 1991. Sandy has had contact with many of the members of the Wyoming State Bar as she has provided bar support services to Wyoming lawyers in many capacities. Most recently Sandy served as the assistant to Bar Counsel and was responsible for processing the applications for Pro Hac Vice admissions. Sandy and her husband have opened a restaurant in Cheyenne, Pizzeria Venti, and the restaurant is doing so well that she is joining him in its operation. With her departure from the Bar office will go a vast amount of institutional knowledge since she is the most senior member of the staff. Sandy will be missed in the bar office and I wish her great success in her new career.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a successful and happy New Year.

Copyright © 2006 – Wyoming State Bar