Region mourns passing of respected judge

By Sarah Pridgeon

The flags of Crook County flew at half mast on Monday to mark the passing of Judge Fred Dollison. Highly respected for his legal work in the community, filling the judge’s shoes will be a challenge for his successor.

“We’ll miss him,” says County Attorney Joe Baron. “He was a good, even-handed judge.”

Judge Dollison was appointed as the first Circuit Court Judge in Crook County in 2002, when a Wyoming Supreme Court ruling allowed the Board of Commissioners to abolish the Justice of the Peace system and establish a circuit court.

Dollison was among three candidates interviewed by then-Governor Jim Geringer. The governor selected him for the position based on his extraordinary knowledge of the law, decision-making abilities and extensive law experience.

The Wyoming Supreme Court convened in a special session in September, 2002, to swear Judge Dollison in as the first Sixth Judicial District Circuit Judge. He became responsible for implementing and overseeing the new circuit system in Crook County.

It was an historic moment both for Dollison and the county. The following year, he was also appointed as Circuit Court Judge for Weston County.

Judge Dollison was also a member of the National Association of School Board Attorneys, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and the National Organization on Legal Problems in Education. He served in all offices of the Sheridan County Bar Association and represented Sheridan County School District No. 2 for nine years.

He began his career at the firm of Badley, Rasmussen and Shoumaker in Sheridan before opening a solo practice in 1985. He then helped to form Northern Wyoming Law Associates, where he practiced until his appointment in Crook County.

Judge Dollison was retained as Sixth Circuit Court Judge in 2004, 2008 and 2012, covering Crook, Weston and Campbell Counties. His current term expires in 2016.

To fill the unexpired term, says Baron, a replacement judge must be appointed by the governor. The Supreme Court will send out a notice to all registered attorneys in Wyoming and interested parties must submit an expression of interest.

These names will then be given to the Judicial Nominating Commission, which will review the applications and interview candidates before selecting a shortlist of three names. This list must be submitted within 60 days.

The shortlist will be handed to the governor, who will have 30 days to make a final selection and appoint a new judge. Whether the new judge resides in Sundance, Newcastle or Gillette will be decided according to a weighted case study that analyzes the courts and figures out the workload in each county.

“If they’re going to make a change, now would be a likely time,” says Baron, explaining that a sitting judge is rarely moved but the Supreme Court could use this transition time if it wishes to do so.

Until Judge Dollison’s replacement is appointed, Judge Stanley Sheehan of Newcastle and Judge William Edwards, retired, of Gillette will step in to cover his caseload.