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Legally Speaking


Issue: December, 2005
Author: Mary B. Guthrie

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Honorable Larry L. Lehman: Remembering an esteemed colleague and his many accomplishments

On November 10, 2005, the Wyoming Supreme Court held a memorial ceremony in honor of Justice Larry L. Lehman. Justice Lehman’s official portrait was also dedicated at that time.

The Supreme Courtroom was filled with judges, lawyers and friends from throughout the state. Justice Lehman’s life and professional accomplishments were celebrated by a variety of speakers, all of whom agreed that one of Justice Lehman’s greatest qualities was his gift of friendship.

Chief Justice William Hill, who presided at the ceremony, commented that the official portrait had really captured the Lehman smile. Every time Justice Hill sees the picture, he feels that he can hear Justice Lehman saying, “Are we having fun yet?”

Jason Lehman represented the family. He observed that during the past year he had often been reminded of his father and what his father had taught him. He talked about the fun family trips that they had shared. He also had great stories about how his father had dealt with being bald or “follically challenged.” At that point Justice Hill reminded the audience about Senator Al Simpson’s retort to someone who had chided him about being bald: “We only get so many hormones and if you want to waste them on growing hair, that’s up to you.”

Retired District Court Judge Ken Stebner described Justice Lehman as a master builder and visionary, in both his personal and professional life. He remodeled virtually every home in which he lived, often knocking down walls. This talent was carried into his life as a judge. “He analyzed the judicial system in Wyoming and visualized how it could be improved by removing traditional walls or barriers. He somehow knew or could see what needed to be done and how some ‘remodeling’ would be beneficial to everyone, especially the people of the State of Wyoming.”

Several of Justice Lehman’s law partners, including Doug McCalla, Skip Jacobson, Tony Vehar and Tim Beppler, were in attendance. Tony recounted memories of law school. His story about how Justice Lehman was able to avoid answering questions in class is worth recounting:

I cannot remember Larry ever directly answering an in-class question from a professor. In Peter Maxfield’s property class, Larry was asked a question (probably about future interests) which we had reviewed in our study group; Larry’s response was, “I don’t know, but ask Mr. Bergholz, he knows it.” In 1996, Larry reflected on his fondest memory of law school: “How Doug McCalla and I helped Warren Bergholz [a law review editor] get through school. It was like pounding sand, but we never gave up on that guy. What eventually worked best was making him think he was smartest, Doug and I got real good at that ploy. Warren has not called on us once in the past 20 years to thank us.” Nonetheless, Larry’s honesty, sincerity and humor garnered the respect of the faculty and the friendship of most of our law school class.

Tim Beppler’s presentation was entitled, “Reflections of a Law Partner.” He recounted how important it was for him to practice with Justice Lehman:

During those early years, Larry and I learned what it meant to be partners in the practice of law. While we had known each other in law school, our relationship and respect for each other grew closer, both professionally and personally, over the next few years. Larry worked hard to keep all aspects of the law practice on an equal footing between us. Larry looked for ways to bring practicality and common sense into the resolution of difficult situations involving not only clients, but our practice. . . . . He created an atmosphere within which it was comfortable to practice law.

Another speaker was Andy Bailey, who was a close friend for almost 20 years. He spoke about how Larry had provided him support and given him strength during some very difficult personal times. He commented that he considered himself fortunate to have known Larry: “To have had him as my friend is one of the greatest honors of my life. I will always miss him.”

Justice Michael Golden represented the Court. He emphasized how Justice Lehman’s leadership and vision had guided the Wyoming judiciary into the 21st century. Some of his achievements included: eliminating justice of the peace courts and transforming county courts into circuit courts with increased jurisdiction; creating the Board of Judicial Policy and Administration; chairing the Judicial Nominating Commission when more state judges were nominated than in any other period; leading the Jury Reform Project and Citizens’ Access to Court Committee; and providing lawyers with the opportunity to increase pro bono representation by permitting limited representation of clients. In addition to being an energetic administrator, Justice Lehman was a very active participant on the court, writing more than 400 opinions. Justice Golden identified several seminal Lehman opinions.

Justice Golden closed his remarks by echoing the other speakers’ praise of Justice Lehman’s professional and personal qualities:

As we reflect on the life and work of our esteemed colleague and good friend, we can confidently say that Justice Lehman was, by every measure, a superb public servant and a great human being. And yet, despite the praise and the evident affection and high regard which marks this tribute, we shall always feel that we have understated the warm humanity and the intrinsic worth of this very good man. We shall not soon see again another with such a wonderful combination of warm personal qualities and excellent judicial leadership skills. He is greatly missed.

The full text of the remarks will be published in the Wyoming Reporter.

Copyright © 2005 – Wyoming State Bar