An American flag flaps in the wind during a Jan. 6, 2022 remembrance ceremony in front of the Albany County Courthouse commemorating the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

The following commentary was originally published in the Casper Star Tribune on Jan. 17, 2021 in the immediate aftermath of the events of Jan. 6. Since that time, several swing states conducted post-election audits or inquiries and a select committee of the U.S. House of Representatives undertook a major investigation culminating in a series of public hearings that are now concluding. The signatories — Wyoming lawyers, judges and legal educators who have each devoted their professional lives to upholding the rule of law — believe the state inquiries and congressional investigation over the last 18 months have confirmed, and indeed amplified, the views expressed in the original article, including the continuing courageous actions and leadership of Rep. Liz Cheney in support of our constitutional democracy.

Opinion

As lawyers, retired judges and legal educators of all political stripes, we share the shock felt by most Americans over the events of Jan. 6, 2021 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 internet 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 some of 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 64 different 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 evidence of fraud or a showing of illegality that would have changed 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, way back on Nov. 20, 2019, 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 30 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.”

We call upon all of our elected leaders, at the state and federal levels, to follow the example of Rep. Cheney.

Rep. Cheney’s post-election challenge to the former president, his supporters and his 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 if those legal challenges failed was both proper and courageous. 

Yet, sadly, after all the lawsuits were dismissed and all the states had certified their elections and electoral votes, the former president and some of his most ardent supporters pressured congress to reject the electoral votes of swing states which the president had lost — a pressure 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 spoke up again, calling 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 meritless litigation and unsupported allegations of fraud and illegality in order to convince her Republican colleagues that the election was over and that they each 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, Rep. Cheney was personally targeted by the former president, who told the angry partisans he’d summoned to Washington on Jan. 6: “The Liz Cheneys of the world … we have to get rid of them.” Yet, Rep. Cheney stood her ground

All Wyomingites committed to the rule of law should be proud of Rep. Cheney’s courage. In the face of calls to lawlessness from the highest places of her party, 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 Jan. 6, we should all 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.

*Additional note from signatories: This month a group of preeminent conservative lawyers and jurists, each of whom “has worked in Republican politics, been appointed to office by Republicans or is otherwise associated with the Party,” issued a 69-page report titled “Lost, Not Stolen: The Conservative Case that Trump Lost and Biden Won the 2020 Presidential Election.” See https://lostnotstolen.org/ The report is a damning indictment of the ongoing and baseless efforts by the former president and his allies over the last 18 months to mislead the public concerning the results of the last election. Those interested in preserving our rule of law and democracy would profit from reading it.

Signatories July 17, 2022

John Araas, lawyer, Sheridan

Jim Belcher, lawyer, Casper

Ken Barbe, lawyer, Casper

Dave Freudenthal, Wyoming governor (2003-11), lawyer, Cheyenne

Amberly Goodchild Baker, lawyer, Jackson

Kim Cannon, lawyer, Sheridan

Mike Davis, Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice, Sheridan, retired*

Richard Davis, past president Wyoming Bar Assn., lawyer, Sheridan

Tim Day, past president Wyoming Bar Assn., Wyoming District Judge (Teton County), retired*

Jean Day, lawyer, Jackson*

Jeffrey Donnell, Wyoming District Judge (Albany County), retired, lawyer, mediator Laramie

William Downes, Chief Judge, United States District Court For Wyoming, retired, mediator

Michael Golden, Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice, retired, Cheyenne

Marilyn Kite, Justice, Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice, retired, Laramie

Matt Mead, Wyoming governor (2011-2019), lawyer, Cheyenne

Megan Overmann Goetz, lawyer, Laramie

Paul Hickey, past president Wyoming Bar Assn., lawyer, Cheyenne

Dennis Kirven, lawyer, Buffalo  

John Masterson, past president Wyoming Bar Assn., lawyer, Casper

Nick Murdock, lawyer, Casper

Rob Jarosh, past president Wyoming Bar Assn., lawyer, Cheyenne

Devon O’Connell, past president Wyoming Bar Assn., lawyer, Laramie

Anna Reeves Olsen, lawyer, Casper

Jerry Parkinson, former dean, Wyoming College of Law 

Bill Schwartz, Cheryl Ranck Schwartz, Margaret Schwartz, lawyers, Jackson

Leah Schwartz & Bradley Adams, lawyers, Jackson

Ken Stebner, Wyoming District Judge (Carbon County), retired

Mike Sullivan, Wyoming governor (1987-95), U.S. ambassador (Ireland), mediator, Casper

Wade Waldrip, Wyoming District Judge (Carbon County), retired

Rhonda Woodard, lawyer, Cheyenne

Gay Woodhouse, former Wyoming attorney general, past president Wyoming Bar Assn., lawyer, Cheyenne

Norm Young, Wyoming District Judge (Fremont Count), retired

*Not a signatory to original publication

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  1. What does it take for our great State to acknowledge and stand for truth and the rule of law? This statement by a coalition of Wyoming lawyers is a good start! Trump was a huckster long before he became President…then he added violent coup leader to his resume on January 6, 2021. When is the rest of Wyoming going to wake-up?

  2. I am so grateful for the courageous and principled stand taken by Rep. Cheney and her active leadership in helping us understand how serious and dangerous are the actions of ex-President Trump to try to overturn the election. Thank you for giving us an example of truly responsive and responsible government. My question is: where are your Republican colleagues in this effort to protect our democracy? Their silence is extremely disappointing.

  3. To rational, critical thinking adults the list of people who signed this letter should be a telling indication.

    To the gullible chrump lemmings, all they can say or see is, “what a bunch of RINO’s and marxists”.

    Delusional doesn’t come close to a description.

  4. I admire Liz Cheney’s. courage in protecting our democracy as much as my grandparent’s family (from Canton, Ohio) admired President William McKinley risking his life for his stance on civil rights.

  5. I am completely baffled by the comments submitted here. If you truly believe in the rule of law, then look at the facts mentioned in the article. No legal entity in any state, Republican or Democratic lead, or federal district has overturned any election. If you still believe the election was stollen, would you not submit the evidence to prove your stance. How many educated involved individuals from your own party will it take to get you to understand the FACTS. The video evidence and testimony of an almost entirely republican witnesses list cannot be dismissed.
    For members of the party that prides itself on states’ rights and the rule of law I am embarrassed by this continued denial of the facts. Liz Cheney stands up for the rule of law and for the integrity of the proven election results. Other republicans like myself would love to have the WY leaders move forward and away from people who depend on lies and threats to control those who do not agree with them. We all have a right to be heard, try listening to your fellow Republicans instead of calling names and issuing threats.

    1. You are proof that reasonable repubs still exist. But, if the chrumpers had their way, they’d kick you out of the Gullible Old Party.

  6. This effort shows just how much trouble Cheney is in with Wyoming voters. She is calling in all her favors and the anti Trump crowd is lining up to assist. The real problem is that Rep. Cheney insulted her base when she attacked and impeached Trump. Something many voters believe is because he criticized her father. Then gave her base the double bird insult when she vice chaired the January 6th commission. Something Wyoming voters view as little more than a sham kangaroo court. Now she says voters should support her because the Wyoming political elites do. Maybe it will work. But I think it shows just how desperate she trying to avoid accountability for insulting her base. She was elected to represent them. But most of them believe she is more anxious to represent Nancy Pelosi and all others in the anti Trump crowd. Be interesting to see if she can so thoroughly insult her base and get reelected. She has a mountain of cash, so maybe she can pull it off.

    1. Most of Cheney’s base feel insulted because Liz has a moral compass, backbone, and is a patriot. The phoney patriots that have American flags, nazi flags, confederate flags, on their trucks and front gates along with juvenile flags that insult President Biden are members of a political gang. Membership requires a strong need to fit in and belong to a group of similar individuals that repeat brain dead memes and have uniforms.
      Those people are insulting to the United States. Be proud. Very proud.

    2. “Now she says voters should support her because the Wyoming political elites do.”

      It’s always those darned “elites”, isn’t it. Never could figure out exactly who they were. Maybe people who apply a broader perspective to these issues? Interesting that there are a couple of former Wyoming governors among them.

    3. !00% correct and over the Target. She is calling in her favors a certain sign of desperation.

    4. Thanks Robert.
      We should be grateful that the fascists are so blatantly obvious about their loyalties to the 1%. These landed aristocrats think the game is the same way it used to be. It isn’t. The People have spoken. Fascism is on its way to the dumpster. The lies simply insult us. Note the persons backing the Cheney greed and dishonesty for future reference. Note the low level of simplistic propaganda they think still works. None of these parties should be worked with for any reason. We know what they stand for. It is NOT representative government.

  7. Agree! – Chestora Lee, retired attorney, former director of the Wyoming Association of Churches, Riverton

    1. Robert, I am saddened by your observations. If we are to survive as a democracy we must stop being belligerent and begin finding common ground.