Casper City Hall

People pass City Hall in downtown Casper.

Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune

I am writing regarding Wednesday’s article about the retirement of Bill Luben after two decades as city attorney. I have practiced law in Casper for many years and I fear the article may have left readers with a misimpression about the job Luben has done. For example, at one point the article discusses Luben’s involvement in updating the city’s liquor laws and the meaning of “over 18.” Luben is quoted as saying “I’m not sure how to interpret it.” Does it mean a person who is 19 or older, or does it mean a person who has passed his 18th birthday? These are exactly the kinds of questions lawyers are trained to ask. Lawyers are routinely involved in disputes where the precise meaning of words is parsed and analyzed. When a good lawyer encounters language in a written document that he considers ambiguous, and thereby a potential risk to his client, he should point that out. The fact others think they know what the words mean is not a reason to avoid asking the question, “what does that mean?”

The difference between Luben and other lawyers is that the rest of us do not conduct our client’s business in the public eye. Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with Luben, both on the same side and on the opposite side of issues. Luben was always a strong protector of the city’s interests. He was also always a precise legal analyst whose talents are broad and varied. The article described some of Luben’s advice as “controversial.” But the reality is that, as lawyers, we often give opinions or advice our clients don’t like and, I suppose, that may make our advice “controversial.” But a good lawyer, nonetheless, gives unpopular advice when he thinks it is right, even when it is not what his client wants to hear. Ultimately, it is the client’s decision to follow or disregard the advice.

So, citizens of Casper, I want you to know that Bill Luben has been a top notch city attorney who represented the city’s interests, and consequently your interests, in the most professional and thoughtful way you could have asked of any attorney. And to Bill I say, “Congratulations on your retirement and a job well done!”

Ken Barbe is an attorney in Casper at Welborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley, P.C.

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