Issue: April, 2007
Author: Joseph B. Bluemel
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From the President . . .
When I was a child growing up in the railroad town of Carter, Wyoming, nestled in its sage brush valley, and attending what was then called junior high school in Mountain View, I wanted to be a lawyer. I thought all lawyers were trial lawyers. Our class had a very abbreviated version of a moot court competition without the input or involvement of a single lawyer. It was structured entirely by our teacher, Mr. Hamblin. I clearly recall the sting of losing that first “trial.” Since I was not easily dissuaded I was wrong, Mr. Hamblin repeatedly had to explain to me that I failed to convince him of the position I advocated and therefore I lost. After repeated explanations I still could not comprehend, and if I could comprehend, I could not accept how a position that was so clear to me and so clearly “right” was not just as clearly understood and accepted by my teacher who acted as the judge and decider. I was certain then if I had a jury I would have won.
As the years passed and my education continued, I grew more passionate about pursuing my dream of becoming a lawyer. While the dream itself remained, it changed in complexion from time to time. At one time I thought I wanted to become a “Wall Street” lawyer, but as I matured and began to define my values, the allure of possible financial gain and power could not overcome what I perceived would be the great loss of the “Wyoming” lifestyle with which I grew up. That lifestyle includes the personal contact with friends, neighbors and acquaintances in small communities in a close-knit state. That Wyoming lifestyle I grew up with and still have is one where neighbors can and do rely on each other, and people in the community help each other in times both good and bad. That lifestyle is personal to each of us and is encapsulated in the words of Abraham Lincoln when he said “I am a firm believer in the people.” As a high school student I tacked a poster of “Honest Abe” on my bedroom wall. He was seated in his majestic chair framed by the white marble columns of the Washington Monument with those words prominent on the black background of the poster. Little did I know and realize when I selected that poster and carefully hung it that President Lincoln further explained his thought about the people by saying “If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
To many, a person who is a named party in a jury trial, law is not a “national crisis” in and of itself. My experiences tell me that any person accused of a crime and standing trial for it is likely to consider that trial more important than a national crisis. The same is usually true for someone involved in a civil lawsuit. The right to have a jury of our peers decide the outcome of accusations or litigation is one of the primary tenants of our government. It seems to me that when anyone stands before a jury, whether they are accused of committing a crime or prosecuting the offense, whether as a plaintiff or defendant seeking a remedy to a dispute, you become a firm believer in the people. As an attorney prosecuting or defending on behalf of a client, I am a firm believer in the people. In a jury trial, those jurors receive the facts according to the rules of our legal system. Those jurors decide what is “real.” Those jurors decide what is true, and they can be and are depended upon. They have a great burden. They are the people in which we firmly believe. They listen to the facts and decide what is true and are depended upon to meet the crises of the litigants.
In an effort to recognize the importance of our jury system, this issue of the Wyoming Lawyer will focus on issues such as jury selection, different perspectives of the jury system—including those from actual jurors—as well as the history and roots of Wyoming citizens’ right to a jury trial.
Also in conjunction with this important effort is Law Day - May 1, 2007. The Wyoming State Bar is proud to partner with the Wyoming Supreme Court, the Wyoming Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association, and all Wyoming Clerks of Court to sponsor statewide activities to recognize the importance of the jury system—in particular, the jurors themselves. Individual communities have been working hard to plan events in several courthouses around Wyoming, including the federal courthouses in Cheyenne and Casper. There will be open houses, mock trials, essay contests, courthouse tours, and much more. I would encourage Wyoming lawyers to attend these important events in your community to publicly and personally express your appreciation for the very difficult but extremely valuable service that jurors provide our legal system.
If you are not already actively involved in the juror recognition event in your community, it is not too late to become involved. Please contact your local clerks of court and volunteer to help make your local event a success. Although May 1st is the primary day for the recognition, many events are happening in communities throughout the state on other days.
I recognize and thank the entire planning committee for its hard work and time devoted to this important event. I especially thank the committee’s co-chairs, Judge William F. Downes and Justice E. James Burke for their leadership, time and efforts to make this statewide event a success. I express a special and personal thank you to Wyoming State Bar President-Elect, Gay Woodhouse, who is responsible for fostering the idea of this project and working with the committee to make it happen along with the valued assistance of Wyoming State Bar Communications Director, Sharon Wilkinson.
I am a firm believer in the people and I hope all of you are too.
Copyright © 2007 – Wyoming State Bar