As lawyers, retired judges, and legal educators of all political parties, we share the shock felt by most Americans over the events of Jan. 6, in Washington, D.C. In the days, months, and years ahead the underlying causes will be debated, and accountability will be assigned. We all have our own opinions on that subject, and they vary, but we will refrain from adding them here. Instead, at this dangerous moment, we think it is important to keep in mind that, while the foundations of our democracy have been shaken, they remain strong. And for that, we are indebted to the courage of countless individuals, from both political parties, who when tested, stood up to do their Constitutional duties.
Thousands of state election officials, placing themselves in harm’s way, worked tirelessly under the intense gaze of partisan poll watchers and video audiences, in a transparent effort designed to assure all of us that “all legal votes would be counted.” Votes were cast and counted, and in hotly contested states, recounted (and in Georgia manually counted again) or subjected to various post-election challenges allowed under different state laws. After all of that, state election officials in contested states, mostly Republicans, publicly affirmed that no meaningful anomalies were found, conclusions that subjected them to violent criticism and threats. Rather than retreating, they stood their ground, in defense of their own state laws and in adherence to their Constitutional duties.
Ultimately, the integrity of the election was challenged in every swing state in over sixty lawsuits. Judges and their support staffs, Republicans and Democrats alike, following their oaths, rose to the challenge by issuing dozens-upon-dozens of reasoned written decisions, addressing all claimed irregularities, including fraud, raised in multiple state and federal courts. No court found any material evidence of fraud or showing of illegality that would change the results. Even the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed appeals and unanimously found no reason to interfere with any state’s voting procedure or result.
During all of these post-election efforts questioning the integrity of the election process, on Nov. 20, Rep. Liz Cheney publicly stated:
“America is governed by the rule of law. The President and his lawyers have made claims of criminality and widespread fraud, which they allege could impact election results. If they have genuine evidence of this, they are obligated to present it immediately in court and to the American people. I understand that the President has filed more than thirty separate lawsuits. If he is unsatisfied with the results in those lawsuits, then the appropriate avenue is to appeal. If the President cannot prove these claims or demonstrate that they would change the election result, he should fulfill his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States by respecting the sanctity of our electoral process.”
Rep. Cheney’s challenge to the President, his supporters, and lawyers to produce evidence to support their claims was entirely correct. Her further challenge to him, and them, to support the sanctity of our electoral process was both proper and courageous.
Sadly, after all states had certified their elections and electoral college votes, and the litigation efforts had failed, the President and some Republicans in Congress began a campaign urging Congress to reject the electoral college votes of swing states which the President had lost—a campaign which, if successful, would have disenfranchised tens-of-millions of voters and put the nation into a full-blown Constitutional crisis. Rep. Cheney, putting aside considerations of party, promptly called out those actions for what they were: “unconstitutional” and “dangerous.” The Congresswoman went to the effort of preparing a lengthy memorandum reviewing all of the litigation that had debunked the “allegations” of fraud and illegality to convince her Republican colleagues that the election was over and that they had a duty under the Constitution and federal law to uphold the right of all states, including Wyoming, to control and determine their own electoral college vote. In response to her actions, she was personally targeted by the President, who told the angry partisans he had summoned to Washington on January 6th: “The Liz Cheneys of the world…we have to get rid of them.”
We are proud of Rep. Cheney’s courage. In the face of calls to lawlessness from high places she adhered to her solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Whatever political differences any may have with her, in connection with the election and the events of January 6th, all Wyomingites should applaud her understanding of her constitutional duties and her willingness to perform them, irrespective of the personal or political cost she might pay.
Our country has many challenges to face in the days ahead. We call upon all of our elected leaders, at the state and federal levels, to follow the example of Rep. Cheney, and other responsible leaders from both parties, by recognizing the lawful results of the 2020 election. We ask that they recommit to the solemn oaths they swore to uphold and defend our Constitution. Living up to those oaths is the bedrock of the rule of law, the first principle of our democracy.
The events of Jan. 6 will be long remembered. May they never happen again.
Signers in alphabetical order:
John Araas, lawyer, Sheridan
Kenneth Barbe, lawyer, Casper
James Belcher, lawyer, Casper
Kim Cannon, lawyer, Sheridan
Richard Davis, lawyer, Past President Wyoming Bar Assn., Sheridan
Jeffrey Donnell, lawyer, Wyoming District Judge (Albany County), retired
William Downes, United States District Judge, retired
Dave Freudenthal, Wyoming Governor (2003-11), lawyer, Cheyenne
Megan Overmann Goetz, lawyer, Laramie
Michael Golden, Justice, Wyoming Supreme Court, retired
Amberly Goodchild Baker, lawyer, Jackson
Paul Hickey, lawyer, Past President Wyoming Bar Assn., Cheyenne
Rob Jarosh, lawyer, Past President Wyoming Bar Assn., Cheyenne
Dennis Kirven, lawyer, Buffalo
Marilyn Kite, Justice, Wyoming Supreme Court, retired
John Masterson, lawyer, Past President Wyoming Bar Assn., Casper
Matt Mead, Wyoming Governor (2011-2019), lawyer, Cheyenne
Nick Murdock, lawyer, Casper
Devon O’Connell, lawyer, Past President Wyoming Bar Assn., Laramie
Anna Reeves Olsen, lawyer, Casper
Dave Park, Wyoming District Court Judge (Natrona County), retired
Jerry Parkinson, former Dean, Wyoming College of Law
William Schwartz & Cheryl Ranck Schwartz, lawyers, Jackson
Leah Schwartz & Bradley Adams, lawyers, Jackson
Ken Stebner, Wyoming District Judge (Carbon County), retired
Mike Sullivan, Wyoming Governor (1987-95), lawyer, retired, Casper
Wade Waldrip, Wyoming District Judge (Carbon County), retired
Rhonda Woodard, lawyer, Cheyenne
Gay Woodhouse, lawyer, former Wyoming Attorney General, Past President Wyoming Bar Assn., Cheyenne
Norm Young, Wyoming District Judge (Fremont County), retired