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Legally Speaking

 

Issue: April, 2005
Author: Mary B. Guthrie

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From the Desk of the Executive Director

I enjoy writing the Executive Director’s column. I am afforded a great deal of latitude on the subject matter, and I can experiment with various writing styles. This month’s column will be a potpourri of ideas.1 The topics that I will touch upon are: the 2005 legislative session; new Court rules; the American Inns of Court movement; the Bar’s new website; and an unconventional CLE class.


2005 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

“Laws are like sausages; it is better not to see them being made.”
Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898)

Over 540 bills were introduced during the legislative session and about 300 were enacted into law. While not many directly affect the legal profession, you should be aware of the following:

• HEA102, “Wyoming Professional Assistance Program,” provides that the Lawyer Assistance Program could become part of the Wyoming Professional Assistance Program, which deals with impaired health care professionals.
• HEA 134, “Medical Review Panel,” was passed in response to the voters’ approval of Constitutional Amendment C. The Act provides that admissibility of a panel decision will be left to the trial court’s discretion. Panels will be comprised of two health care providers, two attorneys and one layperson. Attorney panelists will be selected from a list of attorneys provided by the Bar. Panelists will be paid $500 for each half day of service and $200 for preparation days.
• HEA 137, “Guardians Ad Litem,” provides for training and certification of GALs and appropriates funds.
• SEA 79, “Courts - jurisdictional limits,” increases the jurisdictional amount for circuit courts from $7,000 to $10,000.
• SEA 103, “Medical Malpractice Claims Reporting,” will require health care providers to report all medical malpractice claims, settlements and jury awards.

However, it is more interesting to consider some of the bills that were introduced and not approved. I am sure that many Wyoming residents were dismayed that the jackalope was not designated as Wyoming’s official mythical creature. Other curious bills would have recognized nontraditional medicine, including meditation, prayer, yoga, aromatherapy and hypnosis as legitimate treatment and would have permitted anyone to perform a marriage ceremony with the consent of the bride and groom.

The Bar is very appreciative of the stellar work performed by the thirteen lawyers who served in the legislature. Many of them occupy leadership roles and are highly respected by their fellow legislators. Also, kudos to the Legislative and Law Reform Committee, ably chaired by Dave Uchner.


NEW COURT RULES

“Hell, there are no rules here--we're trying to accomplish something.” Thomas A. Edison
“If you obey all of the rules, you miss all of the fun.” Katherine Hepburn

Recently adopted Court rules are working well. New CLE rules which impose significant financial sanctions on delinquent attorneys seem to have made a difference. As of January 31, more attorneys had satisfied their CLE requirements than in past years.

The pro hac vice rules took effect March 1. A copy of the rules and appropriate forms are available on the Bar’s website or at the Bar office. This promises to be a successful program.

Over two years ago, the Supreme Court appointed the Select Committee to Review the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Committee worked hard and will submit its recommendations to the Bar Commissioners and the Court this summer. There are several proposed changes to be considered.


AMERICAN INNS OF COURT

“In civilized life, law floats in a sea of ethics.” Earl Warren, Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court (1953-1969)

Last year the Ewing T. Kerr Chapter of the American Inns of Court was created in Cheyenne. The purpose of the organization is to encourage a culture in which lawyers demonstrate excellent legal skills and high standards of ethics, civility and professionalism. The emphasis is on mentoring and discussing provocative legal issues. The membership, which numbers almost 100 judges and attorneys, meets for dinner and a program once a month. I would encourage lawyers in other parts of the State to explore forming an Inn of Court. Information about the Cheyenne Chapter can be found at www.ewingtkerrinn.com.


WYOMING STATE BAR WEBSITE (www.wyomingbar.org)

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Arthur C. Clarke (1917- )

I hope that all of you have had the opportunity to review the new (and greatly improved) website. Of special utility is “My Bar Page.” After typing in your attorney number and birth date, you can check your CLE status, directory listing, license fee status and apply to be on Bar committees. An exciting feature of the site will be that you can pay your license fees, register for the Annual Meeting and purchase publications online.


COMMITTEE VACANCIES

“A committee is an animal with four back legs.” John le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)

In the last E-Brief, we notified members about committee vacancies. We were very pleased that several attorneys throughout the state manifested an interest in serving. There will be additional openings on other Bar committees this fall, so please let us know of your interest. The extraordinary assistance given to the Bar by many volunteers is what makes our organization such a strong, viable entity.


QUIRKY CLE CLASS
“A little learning is a dangerous thing.” Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1709)

I read several law-related publications each month. In the February ABA Journal E-Report I found a funny story about a CLE presentation that is well worth sharing.

Recently, a seminar entitled "The Lawyer as Poet Advocate: Bruce Springsteen and the American Lawyer" was presented at the Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, PA. The seminar was the brainchild of Randy Lee, a torts law professor, who often plays Springsteen songs during class because he feels that the music and lyrics inspire good discussions about the dynamics of lawyering.2 Professor Lee feels that listening to “the Boss” can make better lawyers as follows:

“One of the things we are dealing with as lawyers is how deep people’s problems are that they bring to us and how incomplete the legal solution is. It is easy for lawyers to get frustrated and discouraged. In as much as we can help our clients, they can also help us. We can take inspiration from our clients and how they give us the opportunity to feel good about ourselves and what we do. The American lawyer can draw much from the life and work of such poets. As the American lawyer encounters his world, like the poet, words are his only weapon, and his blade can cut only as deeply as the truth contained in those words.”3

Springsteen’s lyrics were held up as examples of fine writing, because he uses few, if any, adjectives, and relies instead on “strong nouns to paint colorful pictures of the common man.” The seminar was very popular and attended by such important persons as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice and a U.S. Magistrate. Professor Lee has been asked to make the presentation to the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

As is evident in this column, things are going well at the Bar office. We look forward to our dealings with all of you, for we appreciate that the only function of this office is to serve Wyoming lawyers.

Since spring is fast upon us, I leave you with this observation from a Russian proverb: “A kind word is like a spring day.”

Copyright © 2005 – Wyoming State Bar

     

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