The University of Wyoming College of Law will be hosting the annual Honor’s Banquet on Friday, March 27th, 2015 at the Laramie Country Club. The Honor’s Banquet will commence at 6:00 pm with a donor reception and cocktail hour, where we would like to recognize those who donated to the College of Law during the 2014 calendar year. Donors will have the opportunity to mingle with current students and hear about the impacts that their gifts have made. The Banquet will begin at 7:00 pm and will recognize named scholarship recipients in the current law school classes, the Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, the Thurman Arnold Distinguished Supporter of the Law School Award recipient, as well as the inductees of the Order of the Coif, Honorary Order of the Coif and the announcement of the prestigious Clarence A. Brimmer Scholarship recipient.
Each year, the Advisory Board, which also serves as the Law Alumni Board, selects recipients for our Distinguished Alumni and Support Awards. This year, the Board has selected The Honorable Alan B. Johnson and the late UW Trustee Warren Lauer as the Distinguished Alumni, and The Honorable William F. Downes as the Thurman Arnold Distinguished Supporter of the Law School recipient.
A native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Judge Johnson attended Vanderbilt University where he received his B.A. in 1961. He returned to Wyoming to attend law school and graduated from the University of Wyoming College of Law in 1964 with his J.D. Following the completion of his education, Judge Johnson served in the United States Air Force for three years before going into to private practice in Cheyenne from 1968 to 1971. Judge Johnson began his judicial career as a magistrate judge for the District of Wyoming from 1971 to 1974. In 1974, he began an eleven year period serving as a Wyoming State District Court. President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Johnson to the United States District Court for the District Court of Wyoming in 1985, a position he still holds to this day. Judge Johnson has had an incredible career and has been an unfailing friend to the College of Law. He frequently volunteers his time to serve as a judge for student competitions, the Summer Trial Institute, and as a guest speaker. The College of Law proudly honors Judge Johnson for his service and dedication to his alma mater and for his distinguished career.
The College of Law was saddened by the recent passing of Warren Lauer. Warren grew up in Lusk, Wyoming and spent much of his life devoted to public service within the state. He graduated from the University of Wyoming with a B.S. in animal sciences in 1976, and a J.D. from the College of Law in 1980. Warren worked for Foster’s Incorporated from 1980-1987, serving as first vice president of a company doing business in wholesale and retail and gas sales around Wyoming. He opened his solo law practice in 1987 in Laramie, establishing Lauer Law Office, LLC. Warren donated his time to the service of several boards throughout the years. Most notably, he served on the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees and on the College of Law Advisory Board. He was appointed as a Trustee in 2005 by former Governor Dave Freudenthal, and reappointed by Governor Matt Mead in 2011. Warren was an enthusiastic devotee to Wyoming, the University, and particularly the College of Law. He will be recognized posthumously for his distinction as a celebrated alumni.
The Thurman Arnold Distinguished Support Award is awarded annually to a non-alumnus that has gone above and beyond the norm to promote and develop the UW College of Law. The UW College of Law is fortunate in the connections it has made throughout the years of such dedicated allies. This year, the College of Law is pleased to bestow this Award upon The Honorable Judge William F. Downes.
Judge Downes earned his undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas in 1968 with a B.A. in political science. Prior to earning his law degree, Judge Downes served four years in the United States Marine Corp and was honorably discharged in 1980 with the rank of Captain, having served in Vietnam. He completed his law degree from The University of Houston Law Center in 1974 and moved to Wyoming to practice law. He was a partner in the Green River law firm Clark & Downes for three years before moving to Casper where he was a partner in the firm of Brown & Drew from 1978-1994. He was nominated by President Bill Clinton to a seat on the bench of the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming in 1994 and served as Chief Judge for the Court in 1999. He retired from the bench in 2011 after 17 years.
Judge Downes has been connected to the law school since he arrived in Wyoming and met with Dean Peter Maxfield while studying for the Bar exam. He has supported and mentored our graduates throughout the years, and employed them as judicial clerks. Additionally, he started the Visiting Fellow Russian Exchange Program with Professor John M. Burman. The program was co-sponsored by the Five Trails Rotary Club in Casper and the College of Law. It brought in a student selected by the Saratov State Law Academy who visited the College of Law for one semester, and clerked for Judge Downes the second semester. Judge Downes is the fifth recipient of the Thurman Arnold Award, joining the ranks of Governor Stan Hathaway, the Honorable Clarence A. Brimmer, Professor Emeritus John M. Burman, and Houston G. Williams.
The Order of the Coif is a national honorary society that recognizes excellence in legal education. Membership is limited to students who graduated in the top 10% of their class, and to honorary members selected by schools with a Coif chapter. This year’s recipient is none other than famed trial attorney Gerry Spence.
Born, raised and educated in Wyoming, Spence graduated cum laude from the University of Wyoming Law School in 1952. The University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in May 1990. He has been honored for law and letters by the American Academy of Achievement, and received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Consumer Attorneys of California. In 2009 he was inducted into the American Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame. In 2013 he received the Lifetime Achievement award presented by the American Association for Justice. He has practice law in Wyoming for over 50 years and is a founding member of The Spence Law Firm, LLC in Jackson, Wyoming. He is the founder and director of the nonprofit Trial Lawyers College, which has provided continuing education to trial lawyers around Wyoming and the nation. Spence has not lost a jury trial since 1969 and has never lost a criminal case, earning himself a reputation as one of the greatest trial lawyers of our time and a lawyer of the people. The induction of Gerry Spence into the Order of the Coif is a well-deserved honor, not only for his scholastic achievements but also for the incredible impact he has made on the legal profession.
The College of Law is excited to recognize the achievements of these deserving honorees. The Honors Banquet is an open event and we strongly encourage anyone who wishes to attend the Banquet to do so. We ask that guests please RSVP to the event by registering here.