Ranck & Schwartz Achieves Victory for Asylum Seeker Before Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals

Ranck & Schwartz lawyers Bill and Leah Schwartz received a positive ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit representing a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”) seeking asylum.

Dieu D. Bokole Umba fled the DRC after suffering repeated acts of torture for his opposition to DRC leadership. Upon his arrival in the United States, “Bokole” applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture. The Immigration Judge (“IJ”) found him incredible based exclusively on inconsistencies about his personal relationships and the Board of Immigration Appeals concluded that there had been no error, dismissing the appeal.

The Tenth Circuit panel appointed Ranck & Schwartz to represent Bokole and the firm accepted the appointment on a pro bono basis. After considering the briefing and argument of counsel, along with the hefty administrative record, the Court concluded that it could not uphold the adverse credibility determination of the IJ on which asylum had been denied. In a 25-page opinion authored by Judge Carson, Circuit Judge, the panel granted the petition for review and remanded for further proceedings in which asylum may now be granted. The Court’s order also directs DHS to facilitate Bokole’s return from the DRC where he had returned following nearly two years of detention at a U.S. facility.

The firm is thrilled with this potentially life-changing result for its client and wishes to thank the University of Wyoming Human Rights Clinic and former Golten Fellow Jamie Crawford for the support and assistance on the file.  

The Court’s decision can be accessed here.

Leah C. Schwartz to present at the Land Trust Alliance’s Advanced Legal Issues Symposia

Leah C. Schwartz will present this June alongside in-house counsel for The Nature Conservancy (“TNC”) at the upcoming Eighth Annual Advanced Legal Issues Symposia sponsored by the Land Trust Alliance. Leah will draw on her experience as outside counsel for TNC and will join other faculty including lawyers representing and advising land trusts and environmental organizations around the nation to share insights on timely topics in conservation law.

Click here to register and take advantage of early-bird pricing offered through May 4.

Advanced Legal Issues Symposia Series | Land Trust Alliance

The rule of law matters

Ranck & Schwartz lawyers Bill and Leah Schwartz are proud to join colleagues and retired judges from across the state in condemning the events of January 6th in our collective piece, “The Rule of Law Matters.” Thank you to the editors of the Casper Star Tribune for choosing our article as an Editor’s Pick and for publishing on short notice while featuring all signatories.

Read here or see PDF below.

Leah C. Schwartz Featured in Wyoming Lawyer

The Young Lawyer Section of the Wyoming State Bar recently highlighted Leah C. Schwartz as part of its new “Young Lawyer Spotlight” series. Read the article in the August 2020 edition of Wyoming Lawyer magazine or here.

Ranck & Schwartz Celebrates Another WY Supreme Court Victory

Leah C. Schwartz recently served as co-counsel in a winning appeal before the Wyoming Supreme Court in which she represented Jackson nonprofit Teton Raptor Center alongside former colleagues at Davis & Cannon, LLP.

The lawsuit involved Teton Raptor Center’s redevelopment of its property on the northwest corner of the Hardeman Ranch as authorized by the Teton County Board of County Commissioners under a 2018 amended conditional use permit. Neighboring landowners challenged the permit as contrary to an existing variance granted in 2008. District Court Judge Timothy C. Day upheld the commissioners’ decision, prompting the neighbors’ appeal.

In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Kari Gray, the Wyoming Supreme Court sided with the County and Teton Raptor Center as intervenor. The case stands as significant precedent in the area of local land use/zoning and discusses the distinction between variances and conditional use permits. The case also reaffirms the judicial deference afforded to decisions of local zoning boards.

Ranck & Schwartz is celebrating alongside its client and looks forward to seeing Teton Raptor Center’s continuing work in the community as a world-class bird care and education facility.

A copy of the Court’s opinion is available here.

Leah Schwartz Named Wyoming Vice President of Tenth Circuit Historical Society

On the nomination of the Honorable Judge Gregory A. Phillips, Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and the motion of distinguished Cheyenne attorney Paul Hickey, Leah Schwartz has recently accepted a position with the Tenth Circuit Historical Society as State Vice President for Wyoming.

The Tenth Circuit Historical Society’s mission is to preserve and promote knowledge of the history of the development of the law in the Tenth Circuit and the judges and notable lawyers who have served in the Circuit. Directors of the Society include three sitting United States Circuit Judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, several District Court Judges, and attorneys practicing in federal courts throughout Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kansas.

To learn more about the Society or to become a member yourself, please contact Leah or visit http://www.10thcircuithistory.org/.

Ranck & Schwartz Committed to Maintaining All Practice Areas While Working Remotely During COVID-19 Crisis

In these challenging times presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ranck & Schwartz is adhering to federal and local guidelines to help “flatten the curve.” Consistent with that, our offices are closed to all in-person traffic and we are asking clients and colleagues to limit communications to email and phone, and to avoid physical mailings where possible. But we are still working every day to maintain the highest level of service. Here is what our clients can expect in connection with our three primary practice areas:

Civil Litigation:

In recent weeks, federal and state courts around Wyoming and beyond have issued orders limiting in-person trials and other proceedings. The Wyoming Supreme Court has now created a Coronavirus Updates Page listing relevant court orders and resources for lawyers and litigants. We are staying up to date on all orders impacting our clients across Wyoming in both state and federal court.

In reality, many court proceedings including trials will need to be vacated or continued as a result of the pandemic. But this does not mean justice will be denied. Pleadings may now be filed remotely across Wyoming, and courts and lawyers are working together to accommodate phone and video hearings and depositions using platforms such as “Zoom.” We are committed to exploring all available means to achieve our clients’ goals.

Mediation:

As hearing and trial dates around the state are being vacated or continued, we believe mediation can help “fill in the gaps” and provide litigants an opportunity to air their grievances and achieve a satisfactory resolution where courts are unavailable. We are working to get up to speed on the latest and best practices for online mediations based on guidance from the Center for Understanding Conflict, where Bill first received formal training as a mediator. We are optimistic that mediations can be successfully conducted by video conferencing.

Appeals:

Our appellate practice remains strong and is one that is easily adapted to remote work. The Wyoming Supreme Court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals have both long allowed for e-filing, and while oral arguments have been vacated in certain cases, appellate panels are still capable of issuing timely decisions on the parties’ briefs. With online libraries like Westlaw at our fingertips, there will be no change to the high level of appellate briefing our clients have come to expect.

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On a personal note, we regret that we are unable to meet in person with our clients consistent with our typical practice. We will miss your company. But we are only a phone call or email away, and in these trying times more than ever, we hope we can help.

Victory Before the WY Supreme Court In Defense of Conservation Easement

Leah C. Schwartz recently served as co-counsel in a winning appeal before the Wyoming Supreme Court in which she represented The Nature Conservancy (“TNC”) alongside Kim D. Cannon.

Contrary to the language of the conservation easement, a private landowner sought to build multiple residences on his property near the Snake River floodplain. After TNC denied the proposed development, the landowner sued. Following discovery and summary judgment proceedings, District Court Judge Timothy C. Day deemed the development contrary to the plain language of the conservation easement. In a majority decision authored by Judge Joseph B. Bluemel, the Court affirmed.

The case is one of a handful addressing conservation easements in Wyoming and will serve as important precedent in the area. A copy of the Court’s opinion is available here.

Wyoming Adopts New Pro Hac Vice Rule

In the new year, Wyoming courts and practitioners are adapting to significant changes to one of the key rules governing the pro hac vice admission of out-of-state counsel. The new Rule 8, amended effective December 1, 2019, can be found within the Rules Governing the Wyoming State Bar and the Authorized Practice of Law.

Under the amended rule, local counsel is charged with heightened oversight responsibility and “shall be deemed to have ratified all conduct of pro hac vice counsel and shall be responsible for pro hac vice counsel’s violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.” The Rule also clarifies its application to proceedings before administrative tribunals and expands the information that must be included in the pro hac application submitted to the Wyoming State Bar.

According to the Wyoming State Bar Office of Bar Counsel, one upshot of the new Rule 8 will be more “hands-on involvement” by local counsel.See Mark Gifford, Wyoming’s New Pro Hac Vice Rule: Heightened Duties for Local Counsel, 42 Wyo. Law. 7 at 12 (December 2019). In many respects, however, the new Rule 8 merely codifies the longstanding preference of several judges across the state, whose orders granting pro hac vice admission typically require active participation by “resident counsel.”

In Teton County, for example, District Court Judge Timothy C. Day’s orders granting pro hac admission generally require (among other things) that local counsel shall:

Review, and by his or her signature approve, all pleadings or other papers filed in the case;
Have direct access to, and maintain communication with, the client; and
Be held jointly responsible by the Court for making all legal or tactical decisions.

Other judges, including Judge Marvin L. Tyler of Sublette County, sometimes quote Wyoming case law in their pro hac orders, including the following admonition from Dorador v. State, 573 P. 2d 839, 841 (Wyo. 1978):

While Wyo. Stat. § 33-5-11 (2009) provides that out-of-state counsel may be admitted for the purposes of a particular case, such nonresident practitioner must have associated with him an active member of the Wyoming State Bar. […] The function of local counsel is something more than a matter of form or protocol; it is not intended that he be only a figurehead. It is expected that he take an active part in the representation of the client concerned and be available to share responsibility as well as actively participate in the case at hand, in the absence of out-of-state counsel.

Notably, Rule 104 of the Uniform Rules for the District Courts of the State of Wyoming also provides that local counsel shall be present in court during “all proceedings in connection with the case, unless excused. ” Judges across the state do not respond kindly when this rule is ignored.

Thus, while the amended Rule 8 may not change much in practice, it certainly demands by rule the active involvement and participation of local counsel in matters before Wyoming courts and administrative tribunals. As stated by Bar Counsel, “[t]he days when a Wyoming lawyer could sign on as local counsel and entrust the handling of the case to an out-of-state attorney admitted pro hac vice are past.” Gifford, supra, at 12.

Those seeking pro hac vice admission should familiarize themselves with the new Rule 8 and the requirements for obtaining the necessary Rule 8 certificate accompanying any motion for admission pro hac vice in a given matter. For an updated submission checklist including internal references, visit: https://www.wyomingbar.org/for-lawyers/admissions/pro-hac-vice Note that the U. S. District Court in Wyoming has its own federal requirements governing pro hac vice appearances.

The new Rule 8 reads as follows:

Rule 8. Pro hac vice admission (Effective until December 1, 2019. ) Members of the bar of any other state, district or territory of the United States may be admitted to practice pro hac vice, in compliance with Rule 104 of the Uniform Rules for the District Courts of the State of Wyoming or Rule 19. 01 of the Wyoming Rules of Appellate Procedure. This rule also applies to proceedings before administrative tribunals which require admission pro hac vice. (a) Admission pro hac vice under this rule and any other rule concerning admission pro hac vice is discretionary with the court or administrative tribunal in which the application is made. A judge, hearing officer or person presiding over an administrative hearingA court or other state administrative tribunal is not obligated to admit an applicant pro hac vice nor is a judge, hearing officercourt or person presiding over an administrative hearingtribunal bound by a prior decision to admit an applicant pro hac vice. Admission pro hac vice may be revoked by the court or administrative tribunal upon its own motion or the motion of a party if, after notice and a hearing, the court or administrative tribunal determines that admission pro hac vice is inappropriate. Admission pro hac vice will be denied or, if granted, will be revoked if the court or administrative tribunal determines that the process is being used to circumvent the normal requirements for the admission of attorneysRules and Procedures Governing Admission to the practicePractice of lawLaw in this stateWyoming. (b) In determining whether to enter or revoke the order of admission pro hac vice, the court or administrative tribunal may consider any information it considers relevant, including but not limited to whether the applicant: (1) is familiar with Wyoming rules of evidence and procedure, including uniform court rules; (2) is available to opposing parties; (3) has particular familiarity with the legal affairs of the party relevant to the case; (4) complies with the rulings and orders of the court; (5) has caused delay or been disruptive; and (6) has been disciplined in any other jurisdiction within the prior seven years. publicly disciplined or placed on disability inactive status, has had pro hac vice admission denied or revoked, or has any pending disciplinary or disability proceeding. (c) The applicant must submit the following to the Wyoming State Bar for each case in which the applicant seeks pro hac vice admission: (1) application on a form prescribed by the Wyoming State Bar; (2) certificate(s) of good standing from the state(s) in which the applicant is licensed, dated no more than 30 days prior to the date of the application; (3) application fee, determined by and payable to, the Wyoming State Bar. (d) Upon approval of the application for admission pro hac vice, the Wyoming State Bar will issue a certificate of compliance with Rule 8. This certificate must be filed in the court or tribunal,Application prescribed by the Wyoming State Bar which must include: (A) A statement identifying all jurisdictions in which the applicant has been licensed; (B) A statement identifying by date, case name, and case number all other matters in Wyoming in which the applicant has sought pro hac vice admission in the preceding five years, and whether such admission was granted or denied; (C) A statement identifying all jurisdictions in which the applicant has been publicly or privately disciplined or placed on disability inactive status, in which pro hac vice admission was denied or revoked, or in which the applicant has any pending disciplinary or disability proceeding, including, in any of the three instances described above, the date of the action, the nature of the violation, and the penalty imposed; (D) A statement that the applicant acknowledges he or she is subject to the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct, the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure, and other court rules, and that the applicant will comply with those rules throughout the pro hac vice admission; (E) The name, address, and membership status of a member of the Wyoming State Bar who shall serve as local counsel for purposes of the representation; (F) The applicant’s certification that all information in the application is complete and accurate, under penalty of perjury; and (G) Such other information as the Wyoming State Bar may from time to time request. (2) To be eligible for pro hac vice admission in Wyoming, an applicant must be authorized to engage in the active practice of law in another jurisdiction. Each application shall be accompanied by certificate(s) of good standing from the highest court for each jurisdiction in which the applicant is licensed, dated no more than 30 days prior to the date the application is received by the Wyoming State Bar, along with the application fee, determined by and payable to the Wyoming State Bar. (3) Incomplete applications will not be accepted. (d) Following review of the application for admission pro hac vice and such investigation as it deems appropriate, the Wyoming State Bar will issue a Rule 8 certificate which shall include all information relevant to the court or administrative tribunal’s determination of whether the applicant should be admitted pro hac vice. The Rule 8 certificate must be filed in the court or administrative tribunal along with the motion of the local counsel to admit the applicant pro hac vice and entry of appearance of local counsel. (e) Local counsel will perform all duties and satisfy all requirements set forth in Rule 104 of the Uniform Rules for the District Courts of the State of Wyoming or Rule 19. 01 of the Wyoming Rules of Appellate Procedure. Local counsel shall be deemed to have ratified all conduct of pro hac vice counsel and shall be responsible for pro hac vice counsel’s violation of the Rules of Professional conduct. See Rule 5. 1, W. R. Prof. Cond. (f) An attorney admitted pro hac vice shall comply with and is subject to Wyoming statutes, rules of the Wyoming Supreme Court, including but not limited to, the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Rules of Disciplinary Code for the Wyoming State BarProcedure, these rules and the rules of the court, or administrative tribunal or agency in which the attorney appears. (g) This rule does not apply to an employee of the Justice Department who is appearing solely on behalf of the United States so long as 28 U. S. C. §§ 515-519, 28 U. S. C. § 530B or similar laws are in force. (Repealed and reenacted effective April 29, 2014. ); amended September 4, 2019, effective December 1, 2019. )