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Legally Speaking


Issue: December, 2008
Author: Sleeter C. Dover

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Executive Director's Report

The Ties That Bind

From where I sit, there are gaps that not only interrupt, but actually sever the ties that bind the Wyoming State Bar with our service population. This not being Independence Day, I will not roll out the old tried-and-true, stirring speeches crafted to generate pride and commitment to the ideals of our American precepts and creeds. I will not make impassioned pleas to the sitting bar nor will I assert or present the available statistics and anecdotal heart-wrenching stories that find their way before the State Bar staff each day. Guilt-inducing pleas will not be a part of this commentary.

I have no intention whatsoever of interrupting your joyous holiday season with sad and disheartening stories of woe. I mean, clearly there is nothing you could do to help or remedy some of the dire circumstances many of our fellow citizens find themselves in. You and I are not responsible for their plight, or even in many instances, their even being in Wyoming in the first place. Of what concern of ours is it that “outsiders” from other states in the Union find themselves here taking advantage of our great state and its natural and physical attributes. Why, many of them even have the audacity to send financial aid “back home” to their fellow “outsiders” under the guise of providing for their families. Oh, and if there is such interest in providing for their families, why in H E double hockey sticks are their families not here with them!? Huh!? Please tell me that! And don’t give me this baloney about not having appropriate and affordable housing for families. I mean, these folks are making lots and lots of money, and shouldn’t they be able to buy housing? Okay, okay, I admit that there may not be any available housing to either rent or buy….but is that OUR fault!? I think not.

And another thing--who are they? Where did they come from? Why are they here? Well sure, our prideful natural resource industry has, and is, humming along and growing by leaps and bounds, and I suppose in many instances it takes a certain trained and qualified workforce to insure the safe and efficient continuation of such a successful and bountiful benefit. True, in many instances we not only invited many of these “outsiders” to come help us out, but as I seem to remember, we even went out and “recruited” many newcomers to join us in this endeavor. But still, what are we to do when the social fabric unravels and the family unit breaks down….whether all members are in or out of state? Is justice served in those instances when one bread-winner has an economic advantage resulting in legal representation while the other is left to fend for him or herself? And how are we to traverse the legal minefield of the best interests of the innocent children in such instances? Oops! I promised not to lay any “guilt trips” on our innocent bar members and to refrain from anecdotes. As mentioned earlier, there certainly seems to be nothing you can do about all of these matters that are not of your making. What with the shut-down of Wyoming Legal Services, the deluge and limited work load of the legal clinics at the Law School, and notwithstanding the court inspired requirements for pro bono service, the understandable reluctance of the private bar to be in any way perceived as a “pro bono” attorney, certainly seems to verify the shedding of the tie that binds, or at least did bind, us with a sizable and previously invisible segment of our state.

Of course, Supreme Court Justices Burke and Kite along with your State Bar and other interested parties are exploring any and every avenue to repair that broken and severed tie. Preliminary indications are that the foundation for sustained and permanent long term repairs looks exceedingly positive. Here at the State Bar, we are evaluating the possibility of engaging any and all elements of the state legal system to include legal assistants/paralegals, court clerks, and retired/semi-retired sections of the Wyoming State Bar. The figures are in, and it is clear that if every licensed attorney in Wyoming accepted as many pro bono cases as possible, the sheer volume would still overwhelm the system. A more organized and formalized system for involving these valuable and trained legal assistants, court clerks, and our distinguished retired, inactive and semi-retired resources in our legal system at the preliminary in-take and pro se levels of the process, hopefully will free up volunteer attorneys for direct court room appearances only.

For some reason, I am now reminded of the by-gone days of the socially active 60s and 70s when we all walked what now seems to have been a more caring and cooperative path. It is a bit ironic, don’t you think, that current presumably inexplicable circumstances have now led us to what appears to be a fast approaching perfect storm of anxiety and fear. That great amorphous mass called “they” that we all have shook our heads in wonder over, now seems to be growing by leaps and bounds and moving ever closer towards our own comfort zones. But, as always seems to happen, we will all somehow pull through and our futures will in many instances prove to be even brighter than before. Naturally, such great fortune will undoubtedly reach that amorphous “they” mass of fellow citizens and all will be well that ends well. Or not… But that is not something that we should concern ourselves with during this bright and joyous season. We can take solace in the strength of our legal associations, and our commitment to protecting the public interest and integrity of the legal system. It is irrefutable that we have memorialized in black letter law the lengths to which we are committed to upholding and raising the perception and reality of the legal profession. What more can be expected of us? I mean, we have it in writing, right there in the rules of professional conduct, pro bono provisions, and the complete set of administrative mechanisms by which we hold ourselves accountable. We have clearly manifested beyond a reasonable doubt that each of our conscious should be clear and our holidays full of cheer.

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