The Larry L. Lehman Award for Judicial Excellence is awarded annually by the Wyoming Supreme Court and the Wyoming State Bar. It is given in memory of Justice Lehman, who died in December 2004. It is fitting that Lehman’s memory be honored because of his commitment to excellence. He spent a great deal of his time working to improve the operation of the court system. He distinguished himself as a Circuit Court Judge, District Court Judge, and Supreme Court Justice.
This year’s Larry L. Lehman Award for Judicial Excellence was awarded to Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Michael Golden.
Justice Michael Golden has been a member of the court since 1988, and served as the Chief Justice from 1994 to 1996. He received his B.A. from the University of Wyoming in 1964, and graduated from the U.W. College of Law in 1967. Justice Golden earned a LL.M. in Judicial Process from the University of Virginia in 1992. Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court he practiced law in Casper and Rawlins after serving four years in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. Justice Golden was retained in the 1990, 1998, and 2006 retention elections.
In 1999, at the request of the late Chief Justice Larry Lehman, Justice Golden humbly took the reigns as chair of what is now called the Children’s Justice Project. Under his leadership, Justice Golden used his stature to raise the level of awareness and practice in child welfare. He recognized the challenges of our court system and the unique and special needs of children and families plagued by poverty, neglect, illiteracy, substance abuse, mental health issues and other social ills. Through his support, encouragement and perseverance, he fostered many changes in court practice that have made a difference in the lives of children, youth and families.
Additionally, Justice Golden advocated for changes to the Wyoming Protection Act to ensure that Wyoming law met the goals of achieving timely permanency for children while balancing the rights of parents. He supported the development of several publications for practitioners and for children and families. He championed many pilot efforts over the years including the most recent pilot effort in Sweetwater County which has seen incredible results in reducing the amount of time children spend in foster care with the added benefit of achieving substantial cost savings to the state and county. Because of Justice Golden’s extraordinary commitment, compassion and humility, law and justice are better off, but more importantly so are many children and families in Wyoming.