- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Retired U.S. District Judge Clarence A. Brimmer, widely regarded as a pillar of the Wyoming legal profession, has died. He was 92.

Brimmer died Thursday at a hospital in Boulder, Colorado, surrounded by his family, said his daughter, Liz Brimmer.

Brimmer was renowned among lawyers for his knowledge of the law and his insistence on fairness.

Gov. Matt Mead, a former U.S. attorney for Wyoming, said in a statement that lawyers who appeared in court before Brimmer were “better attorneys with an eye on the reason for the law - justice.”

“On a personal note, I consider Clarence Brimmer one of the finest men I’ve ever known,” Mead said. “He taught me about the practice of law and about the living of life.”

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, said in a statement that Brimmer was “perhaps the greatest federal jurist our state has known.”

“His opinions will continue to shape our land and our legal system for generations to come, and all of us will live freer and better for them,” Barrasso said.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said Brimmer blended knowledge of the law with common sense.

President Gerald Ford appointed Brimmer to the federal bench in 1975 following Brimmer’s service as Wyoming’s U.S. attorney and state attorney general.

Brimmer continued to hear cases until the spring of 2012.

Brimmer made headlines in early 2008 when he overturned a state death sentence for inmate James Harlow, who had been convicted of murder in the stabbing death of Cpl. Wayne Martinez, a Wyoming State Penitentiary guard. Harlow was then one of only two men on Wyoming’s death row.

Brimmer accepted Harlow’s claim that he didn’t get a fair trial. The ruling said Harlow had been denied a fair trial in state court in part because prosecutors failed to turn over information to the defense and that it didn’t get adequate resources for the job.

“The trouble I have with all of this is that I have always believed that in this kind of trial, you play the cards face up, not face down,” Brimmer said after lawyers made final arguments before him in Harlow’s appeal. “And it looks like they did the opposite.”

Brimmer’s major cases in recent years have included disputes over snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park and a federal ban on new road construction on national forests.

Brimmer drew fire from environmental groups and clashed with federal judges in other states over his environmental rulings. He blocked the Clinton-era rule on grounds that the administration hadn’t followed federal environmental laws in enacting it.

A native of Rawlins, Brimmer received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Michigan. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II before entering private law practice in Rawlins. He served as Wyoming attorney general from 1971 to 1974 and as U.S. attorney in 1975. He was active in the Wyoming Republican Party before entering public service.

Brimmer’s son Phil Brimmer was confirmed as a U.S. District Court judge in Colorado in 2008.

Brimmer is survived by four children and four grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife of 58 years, Emily.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Cheyenne.

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