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Legally Speaking

 

Issue: February, 2005
Author: Mary B. Guthrie

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From the Desk of the Executive Director

Throughout the Christmas season, the sounds of carols usually reinforce the joy and gaiety of the season. Many of us go through our days humming, “Joy to the World” or “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” However, during December I experienced sadness rather than joy, because four special friends died during the month. Consequently, the solemn hymn, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” more closely captured my mood.

All four men were well-liked and well-respected lawyers. Their funerals were attended by hundreds of people, including Governor Dave Freudenthal and Chief Justice Bill Hill. At each funeral, I was reminded of advice from my father who used to say that we should lead our lives so that people will want to attend our funerals to celebrate our lives, rather than making sure that we were dead!

I am going to take the opportunity in this column to reflect on why my four Cheyenne friends, Arch McClintock, Pete Mulvaney, Larry Lehman and Jim Gusea, were so special and how they made a difference in Wyoming. It is interesting to note that even though they spanned a broad range of ages and legal experiences, all of these fine men possessed common qualities. Here is my attempt to praise great men who enjoyed personal and professional successes.

Here are some of the attributes that they had in common:

They were dedicated to the law
The law was an important part of their lives, which partly explains why they were so successful. Arch McClintock, who lived to be 93, often expressed the view that he was blessed to be a lawyer. He enjoyed great success as a private practitioner, Wyoming Supreme Court justice and Wyoming’s Attorney General, a position that he did not assume until he had retired from the Court.

Larry Lehman enjoyed the distinction of being the only person to serve as a circuit, district and supreme court judge. In his four years as Chief Justice he was responsible for several innovative changes to the judicial system. It was particularly fitting that his services were attended by most of the judges in the state, who wore their black robes in honor of his position.

Pete Mulvaney was the son of a lawyer. He loved the practice of law and lawmaking. He could examine a complex issue and in a few words distill it into clear, meaningful prose.

Jim Gusea was proud to be a Wyoming lawyer. Even though he was an active partner in a successful restaurant, he never contemplated leaving the practice.

They balanced work and play
All four men worked very hard, but they were also able to take time for themselves and their families and friends.

Jim Gusea was an enthusiastic hunter, snowmobile driver and zealous University of Wyoming football fan. His good friend Phil Van Horn, who spoke at his funeral, observed that it was fitting that Jim died the day after he went snowmobiling with his family and had watched his beloved Cowboys beat USC in the Las Vegas bowl. Jim was also a consummate practical joker.

Larry Lehman enjoyed many different interests, which he shared with many friends. At his home in Harriman, he drove golf balls off the deck. He also treasured golf vacations in Arizona, with his wife, and their dear friends Al and Jane Taylor and Dick and Emily Anne Macy. At his funeral, his son reminisced about fun family camping trips.

Pete Mulvaney also was an avid golfer. He prided himself on golfing at least once every month in Cheyenne. This was not a task for sissies, given the vagaries of Cheyenne winter weather.
After retirement, he wrote clever, penetrating letters to the editor of the local paper.

Arch McClintock had a great zest for life. He was an enthusiastic skier, camper, golfer, tennis player and bicyclist. He played a mean game of golf and while he wasn’t the strongest driver, he always hit straight down the fairway and many times beat other more powerful golfers.

All four were fun people, who never took themselves too seriously. They all had a great sense of humor.

They believed in public and community service
All of the men were involved in various aspects of public service. Pete Mulvaney served for six years in the Wyoming State legislature, where he was minority floor leader for one term. During his 16 years at the Wyoming Attorney General’s office, he represented the state in very important cases and provided sage counsel to many state officials and young lawyers. He probably passed on the constitutionality of more bills enacted by the legislature that any Attorney General employee ever will. This line from his obituary sums up his service: “Mr. Mulvaney spent his life serving the State of Wyoming with passion.”

Jim Gusea was a court commissioner and participated in many Wyoming State Bar and Laramie County Bar activities. He was willing to take pro bono cases and represented many people who otherwise would not have had access to the courts. Jim was very involved with Cheyenne Frontier Days. He was instrumental in developing a rodeo for children with developmental disabilities. He was a committed member of the Lutheran Church and served in several church leadership roles.

Both Arch McClintock and Larry Lehman served the judiciary with honor and distinction. Larry also was the Uinta County attorney. Both were candidates for the state legislature. Arch and Pete served in the military.

All had loving families and friends
After hearing people praise Larry Lehman at his “Roast” in August and at his funeral, I am convinced that everyone who met him loved him. He invoked great feelings of affection and respect in people from all different economic and social positions. He was blessed with an adoring wife, who showed extraordinary strength during his illness, and devoted children.

Arch McClintock loved people and had more inter-generational friends than anyone I’ve ever known. During his tenure as Attorney General he made many young friends, who were devoted to him to the end of his life. It was a badge of honor to be a member of “Arch’s Army.” He and his three children shared extremely strong bonds of affection.

The minister who was to officiate at Jim Gusea’s funeral wisely anticipated that his church could not accommodate everyone who would want to attend the funeral, so he arranged to hold services at the largest church in Cheyenne. Over 700 people attended his funeral to show their love and respect for Jim. He was devoted to his wife, children and grandchildren.

Pete Mulvaney had many friends and admirers. He and his wife were married almost 50 years. During his time at the Attorney General’s office he mentored dozens of “baby” lawyers, who learned how to practice law from him. They were devoted to him and respected his kindness and sense of humor. His religion was very important part of his life. Consequently, the Bishop and at least a half dozen priests officiated at his funeral mass.

Discussing the deaths of these fine men, brings to mind a project that we’re working on at the Bar office. During the last few years several solo practitioners who died had not made any plans for how their offices should be closed. In some instances, this lack of planning created real challenges for their families and personal representatives.

I have discovered that several state bar associations have prepared brochures and handbooks designed to assist attorneys in planning for their future. After looking at several publications, I have received permission to adapt a fine publication of the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund, entitled, Planning Ahead: A Guide to Protecting Your Clients’ Interests in the Event of Your Disability or Death. The handbook, which is full of good advice, contains checklists and forms. It will soon be at the printers and available for sale to Wyoming State Bar members. The price will be reasonable, for it will only include the cost of printing and handling.

The forward to Planning Ahead succinctly describes an attorney’s duty to make arrangements for death or disability:

It is hard to think about events that could render you unable to continue practicing law. Unfortunately, freak accidents, unexpected illness, and untimely death do occur, and if they happen to you, your clients’ interest may be unprotected.

Even though no one, most especially a lawyer, can ever contemplate his or her death, attorneys, like Socrates, are mortal. Therefore, it is a professional and realistic activity to plan for such a day.

In closing, I am glad to have had the opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts about four extraordinary lawyers and friends who made a difference in our state and profession. Their lives should serve as blueprints for how we should conduct our professional and personal lives.

We should all live, love and laugh.

     

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