Judge hanging up robes for retirement feted in Basin Monday

After more than 10 years serving on the bench, Fifth District Judge Steven Cranfill will hang up his robes on July 31 when his retirement takes effect.

Cranfill grew up in Worland and served as a parole and probation officer in the early 1970s. In 1975 Cranfill began his service as a state representative for Washakie County. His term ended in 1978. At the age of 34, he received his Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific in California in 1984.

For the next 20 years Cranfill worked in private practice and served as Cody’s city attorney from 2001 to

Retiring 5th Judicial District Judge Steven Cranfill poses during a special retirement party in his honor Monday at the Big Horn County
Courthouse in Basin.
Kynli Smith photo


He is married to the former Dana Taggart of Lovell.

In 2006, Gov. Dave Freudenthal named Cranfill to the bench.

“It has been a real honor to serve,” said Cranfill at this retirement party at the Big Horn County Courthouse on Monday. “People don’t come to court because they want to. But we try to prevail and try to work through whatever issue they may have. It has been a challenge but an honor.”

One of the areas in which Cranfill has seen change is in technology and how it is has been used in cases over the last 10 years.

“Technology plays a role in cases now,” said Cranfill. “You don’t see a custody case anymore without pages of text messages from people.”

Cranfill also said while serving he has seen 75 to 100 jury trials come through his court.

“You learn a lot from juries,” said Cranfill. “The people here take jury duty seriously, which is great. They see it as an obligation and duty.”

Cranfill adds that he has done his best to ensure the court process for those who come into his court has been a speedy one during his time.

“Getting decisions is just as important as what the decision is,” said Cranfill. “And I think we have done that for the most part. I’m proud of that.”

During adoption cases, Cranfill is known for making adoptions special for the children in his court, often by giving them a stuffed animal on adoption day.

“We give out pens and stuffed animals and try to make it a special event for them,” said Cranfill.

Cranfill has also made an effort to educate those in the Big Horn Basin on the law, oftentimes going to schools and talking to students about the law.

“We live in a free country with the rule of law, and I have made an effort to talk to students about it,” said Cranfill. “If we didn’t have the law then we wouldn’t be here.”

Cranfill plans on doing some mediation in retirement and some pro bono cases.

“I’m going to fish more and catch up on reading and do all those things you think about doing in retirement,” Cranfill said.

On July 31, the day Cranfill’s retirement takes effect, newly appointed Judge Bill Simpson will put on the robes for the Fifth District.

Gov. Matt Mead appointed Simpson in late June. Simpson, a Cody High School graduate, has a bachelor’s in science and a Juris Doctor degree from UW College of Law. He has been in private practice for 33 years and has worked for the Wyoming Public Defender’s Office.

“The Judicial Nominating Commission sent over three great candidates, making this decision
very difficult,” said Gov. Mead in a press release. “Bill Simpson received supportive letters from judges, fellow attorneys, a victims’ services organization and members of the community from many walks of life, as well as from others around the state. His long and strong commitment to the Cody area, his criminal and civil legal experience acquired over decades of practice and his considerable volunteer legal work to help those in need were important in making the final selection,” added the governor.

In reaction to his appointment, Simpson said: “I am truly and deeply honored by Governor Mead’s appointment. I will work as hard as I can for the people of the Fifth Judicial District — a place I know and love.”

Roast planned

The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program of the 5th Judicial District will host a retirement roast for Judge Cranfill on Wednesday, Aug. 16, at the Cody Auditorium. Speakers will include former Sen. Alan K. Simpson, former Gov. Mike Sullivan, Wyoming District Judges John Perry and Wade Waldrip, longtime friend Rondo Fehlberg and Worland High School classmate, BYU athletic director and former Weber State track coach Chick Hislop. Cody businessman Robert P. Brown will speak, as well.

The event begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50, and all proceeds will benefit the CASA Organization. CASA is a non-profit group of trained volunteers who assist children involved in juvenile court proceedings.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call the CASA office at 307-587-4361.

By Kynli Smith