From the President, 0222 WYBJ, Vol. 45 No. 1. 10

AuthorJ. Kenneth Barbe
PositionVol. 45 1 Pg. 10

From the President

Vol. 45 No. 1 Pg. 10

Wyoming Bar Journal

February, 2022

Judges Are People Too

J. Kenneth Barbe

Welborn Sullivan Meek & Tooley, P.C. Casper, Wyoming

After finishing law school and moving to Casper, my wife, Judy, returned to the University of Wyoming to get a master's degree. We got her an apartment in Laramie, and she struck up a friendship with a sweet, widowed woman, Mrs. Spangler, whose son, Dan, was a district court judge in Casper. Wait. What? My wife is friends with the mother of Judge Dan Spangler, the bearded, sober-faced man who sits on the bench in the Seventh Judicial District? He has a mother? Well, okay, maybe my reaction was not quite that incredulous, but the truth is, early in my career, I thought little about judges being like the rest of us. One day I took an order in for Judge Spangler to sign (back then we just strolled into the judicial offices at will), and he mentioned Judy and his mother. We had a bond. That did not stop him from ruling against me on more than one occasion, but I gained an appreciation for what should have been obvious. Judges are people too. They have mothers, and fathers, and children and try to do the right thing just like the rest of us. Over the years I've seen law partners, law school classmates, friends, and summer interns take the bench and, just like Judge Spangler, they may not always agree with me, but they are men and women who live the same lives as the rest of us and who care about getting it right.

These are the perspectives I, and probably every other member of the Judicial Assessment Advisory Committee, brought to the table in the spring of 2021 when a new committee was formed to update the Wyoming State Bar Judicial Advisory Poll. The poll, done every two years, provides feedback to judges and guidance to the public regarding the question of judicial retention. The poll has remained virtually unchanged. It was time for a makeover.The committee is composed of attorneys in the government and private sector, judges from the Wyoming Supreme Court, district courts and circuit courts, a lay member, and a statistician from the University of Wyoming.

We began by asking the most basic question—should the judicial poll even continue? The ABA guidelines suggest that "[j]udicial evaluation programs improve the performance of individual judges and the judiciary as a whole" and recommend that either the court or the local bar should conduct periodic...

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