Perhaps one of the greatest opportunities retiring Justice William U. Hill has been afforded during his legal career has been the chance, as a Wyoming Supreme Court Justice, to teach school children about the judiciary. Ruby Gregorio, Justice Hill’s Judicial Assistant, commented that his “desire to educate young children about the court system has been a large part of his passion as a justice.” Art Linkletter, 50’s TV personality and author of the book Kids Say the Darnedest Things, would ask a panel of kids “What did your mother tell you not to talk about today?” Justice Hill would sometimes acquire that information without even asking. Being very personable and approachable to children, he would occasionally learn family secrets while discussing the court system with the enthusiastic students who would gather in the courtroom during a tour. He would then need to gently steer the conversation back to a more general discussion of legal matters. Justice Hill’s objective was to share his passion for the law and to ignite an interest in the kids to learn more about the court system and the legal profession. He strove to assure them that they could achieve whatever they set their minds to.
Justice Hill will retire from the Supreme Court bench and those treasured teaching opportunities on February 16th. He was appointed to the Wyoming Supreme Court on November 3, 1998, by Governor Jim Geringer after serving as Wyoming Attorney General since March, 1995. Justice Hill served as Chief Justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court from 2002-2006. Earlier in his career, he served as both an Assistant United States Attorney and an Assistant Attorney General for Wyoming, and was engaged in private practice in Riverton, Cheyenne, and Seattle, Washington. He also served as Chief of Staff-Chief Counsel for Senator Malcolm Wallop in Washington, D.C. Jennifer Golden, a staff attorney for Justice Hill, had the good fortune of working with him in both his capacity as Attorney General and as Wyoming Supreme Court Justice. She commented that “As Attorney General, Justice Hill wore several hats: lawyer, law enforcement officer, and manager. In each role he was consistent. He guided with fairness and a commitment to the law.” Jennifer recalled the first Attorney General opinion Justice Hill asked her to work on and his directions to her. “He did not want a particular answer. He wanted a thorough study of the law, a careful analysis, and the answer that followed. Justice Hill’s approach as a justice is the same. He has excellent instincts for how a question should be decided, but his directions remain as I always knew them to be—give the question a hard look and answer it thoroughly and true to the law.” Lindsay Hoyt, another of Justice Hill’s staff attorneys, had a difficult time putting her feelings about his retirement into words. “I apologize for my late response. I don’t know if it’s that I couldn’t come up with the right words, or that I couldn’t bear to. I’ve heard people say many times that Justice Hill is the ‘justice of the people.’ Not only do I agree with that, but will add that he is the soul of the Court. His work as a justice has been much of his life’s work, and a source of great joy. It is the crown jewel of an otherwise esteemed career. Because of that, to quote Lou Gehrig, I know he considers himself ‘the luckiest man on the face of this earth.’”
Both Ruby and Jennifer speak of Justice Hill’s numerous talents and his ability to excel at his varied interests. Ruby marvels that “he can not only entertain with his musical talents [The Law North of Crow Creek band], but also with his ability to tell such memorable stories and anecdotes.”
Justice Hill was a recent recipient of the Larry L. Lehman Award for Judicial Excellence and the 2017 U.W. Advisory Board’s Distinguished Alumni Award. In 2011, he was honored with the Order of the Coif. He has been an avid supporter of the College of Law throughout his career and has regularly volunteered at the College.
Justice Hill’s fundamental nature can perhaps be summed up by a quote from the aforementioned Art Linkletter. “Do a little more than you’re paid to. Try a little harder than you want to. Aim a little higher than you think possible, and give a lot of thanks to God for health, family and friends.”
In discussing the upcoming retirement, Chief Justice Burke commented, “Justice Hill has been a mainstay of this Court for nearly 20 years, including four years as Chief. He has authored hundreds of opinions, listened to thousands of oral arguments and throughout has served this Court, the judicial branch, and the citizens of this state with dedication and distinction. He will be missed. We wish Justice Hill and his family all the best.”