From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 1 - March 29, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Judge takes oath during robing ceremony

by Janet Montgomery

Last Wednesday, nearly every member of the Sublette County legal community, along with Gov. Dave Freudenthal and members of the Wyoming Supreme Court, filed into the courtroom for the official Robing Ceremony of Sublette County Circuit Court Judge Curt Haws.

Speakers jested with the new judge over past dealings as well as gave serious comment as to the new judge’s commitment to Sublette County, something, which he himself also takes seriously.

“I take the responsibility extremely seriously,” Haws said. “I don’t take myself very seriously.”

During Wednesday’s ceremony, Haws’ wife, Charisse, and two daughters, 12-year-old Madison and 3-year-old Mia, joined him with Charisse and Madison also taking part in the ceremony as they conducted the actual robing.

Haws said he is originally a Star Valley boy. After attending Brigham Young University for his undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Haws studied law at Utah University.

In previous years, Haws worked in Los Angeles, Calif., as well as Salt Lake City, Utah, before returning to Wyoming to live and work in Jackson, the hometown of his bride Charisse, nearly 14 years ago.

“We left for many years to go to school and practice … for a number of years before we decided we couldn’t live without Wyoming, so we moved home,” he said.

While the big city practice provided a venue for great work with great cases and great lawyers, Haws said, “Living is almost impossible to do in that situation.”

After moving back to the Cowboy State, Haws worked for the family business, a hospitality company. He said it was time for a change in the leadership of that company, and Haws really wanted to step out of the way of his brother-in-law.

“I was ready to get back into law more full time,” he said. Haws said the kind of law he had been practicing for the last dozen years was more transactional.

“Frankly, it doesn’t excite me and I’m not all that great at it,” he said. “So I wanted to be back in the courtroom.”

When the Wyoming Supreme Court began seeking nominations for the Sublette County Circuit Court Judge, Haws saw the opportunity and decided to throw his hat in the ring for the role. On Jan.1, Haws officially took the Sublette County post with the retirement of Judge John Crow.

Haws said he hopes to follow in Crow ‘s footsteps in his courtroom.

“Those are big shoes to fill,” he said. “I certainly hope to be able to do that. I love the courtroom I love being in the courtroom.”

While currently still commuting from Jackson to Pinedale, Haws said, “We’re going to either build or buy a house here.”

However, Haws said even driving over from Jackson is less of a commute time wise than he had when living in Los Angeles and about the same as when he lived in Park City and worked in Salt Lake City.

Haws said he plans to be in Sublette County during the week as much as possible as the family makes its transitions for him to work in Sublette County.

With a few months of working behind him, Haws said of the Sublette County Court, “I am really pleased with how we’re operating ... I think we are hitting on all cylinders.”

He said both the local law enforcement and the members of the County Attorney’s office impress him.

“We have really, really high-caliber attorneys,” he said. “Local and state public defenders do an outstanding job. It’s the best possible situation for justice to really get done in my opinion.”

“I’m having a ball,” he added. “I love being back in the courtroom.”

But being in the courtroom is not without its challenges.

“The most challenging thing is to spend very little time with someone … to only have a few minutes or a few hours to really try to understand a person’s motivations … in a situation and then to try to fashion a judgment that will try to accomplish the goals that society has set out and will be fair and productive in that person’s life,” he said. “That’s very challenging because you want to get it right.”

Haws not only wants to get it right, he also wants to have an impact, especially with young offenders and juveniles who appear in his court.

“We get to see juveniles in this court when they are charged as adults,” he said. “But young people are my passion. … Part of the reason that I wanted this job was not just the fabulous pay and cool uniform, I was looking for something I could do where I might have an impact for good in somebody’s life.”

He said regardless of the charge against someone, the courtroom is the place where he hopes he can have an impact.

“What I really want is to try to fashion things so that they really have a chance to learn something,” Haws said. “What I really hope is that they can understand, learn that our actions have consequences.”

And in cases of minors in possession of alcohol, Haws said, “I just want to keep our kids alive because the statistics are so horrific, the likelihood of serious injury or death is so high. If we can keep them live then they are going to do great things.”

While Haws has taken a strong stance for minors in possession cases, he said there is no particular area of crime for which he has strong stance, but rather, just for the law.

“I … adamantly believe in the rule of law,” he said. “Which means everybody gets treated the same regardless of who they are.”

Haws also said he believes people have a right to know about the outcome of their case and has taken on the duty of writing orders upon preliminary hearings.

“I think people are entitled to know not just what the outcome is but why the outcome is,” he said, adding that it’s also important if he’s wrong in a case as well so that the Appellant Court can see what facts he thought were important.

“I’m a big believer that a judge needs to do more than simply say yes or no,” Haws said, adding that a judge owes both sides of an explanation of the thought process.

“I take the job very seriously,” Haws said. “I think the job plays a vital role in our system of justice. … In order for our whole system to work efficiently we must have judges that are diligent, unbiased and have integrity, and if we have these things then everything else works.”

“ I hope the courtroom is place where we can be serious, but that we can laugh when it’s appropriate,” he added.

Haws said he wants the courtroom to be a place where justice is done and not a place of fear and loathing, but “that the community is better for what happens in there.”

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