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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Wyoming Prof Honored by PDs for Preserving Right to Counsel

C_burmansmall From a press release:  The Wyoming Public Defender’s office presented its 2005 “Gideon Award” to University of Wyoming College of Law Professor John M. Burman.  Burman has taught at the UW College of Law since 1985 and is of counsel to the Laramie law firm, Corthell and King.

The annual honor recognizes those who have made a significant contribution to preserving the meaning of the right to counsel guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, according to State Public Defender Ken Koski. He says award recipients are selected upon evaluation of their past efforts in Wyoming to assure that the right to counsel has been preserved, thus keeping "Gideon's Promise" that those accused of a crime will receive the benefit of counsel to represent them.

It is named after Clarence Gideon, an uneducated poor rural Southerner who was forced to represent himself and then convicted of a crime he did not commit. In 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court decided his hand-written claim was correct: the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed him the right to counsel.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal wrote that Professor Burman had been described as the “lawyer’s lawyer” for his efforts in advising and training lawyers on ethical issues. The governor also observed that, “perhaps no other attorney has provided more pro bono representation to the poor and downtrodden in this state than you.”

Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice William U. Hill wrote, “No one is more deserving. Your dedication to the law, our system of justice and to the students preparing to enter our profession are exemplary, and demonstrate your desire to honor the promise of the Gideon decision.”

Burman said he could not imagine an award that could mean as much as this one. He said, “The reason is the respect I have for the untiring, and often unappreciated, efforts” made by public defenders.   [Mark Godsey]

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