The Wyoming Supreme Court has directed a Cody attorney to stop practicing law, finding that he is unable to continue serving as a lawyer.
The court transferred William “Billy” Struemke’s law license to “disability inactive status” in a Wednesday order.
The rules governing Wyoming attorneys say the status is applied when an attorney is shown to be “unable to fulfill professional responsibilities competently because of physical, mental or emotional infirmity or illness.”
“Transfer to disability inactive status is not a form of discipline and does not involve a violation of the attorney’s oath,” the rules say.
Struemke — who agreed to the order — is unable to work as a lawyer while on inactive status. In a Friday interview, Struemke indicated he had been stretched too thin between his work as a lawyer and as a member of the Wyoming Army National Guard.
Struemke closed his private law practice, Serviam Legal Services, last summer. In court filings at the time, Struemke said he was shutting it down “in anticipation of a military deployment overseas and other ancillary matters.”
In mid-January, the Wyoming Supreme Court had suspended his law license after he failed to pay his annual license fees to the Wyoming State Bar.
“... It would be an honest statement to say I took off more than I could chew trying to help as many people as I could. That’s a God-honest fact there,” Struemke said of being placed on disability inactive status. “And when you add in the added pressure and stress of staring down the extra work of a deployment, it was just a lot. Just a lot.”
Under the state’s rules, the details and circumstances that led up to last week’s order from the Supreme Court are not public information.
“Wyoming continues to treat these matters, really, as confidential,” said Wyoming Bar Counsel Mark Gifford. “And frankly, in the case of disability inactive status, there are good reasons for that.”
Gifford said it’s “very rare” that an attorney is placed on disability inactive status, recalling that the last such order from the Supreme Court came about six years ago.
The bar’s prosecutor said he also couldn’t comment on whether any complaints had been made against Struemke.
“All lawyer disciplinary matters are confidential unless and until the Wyoming Supreme Court issues an order of discipline,” Gifford said.
Struemke had practiced law in Wyoming since moving to the state in 2010. That included stints at the Hot Springs County Attorney’s Office and at the Park County Attorney’s Office, where he served as a deputy from 2011 to early 2015.
Struemke also served on the Cody school board from 2015 through last year. He had sought another four-year term on the board, but came up short in November’s general election, finishing seventh in a race for three seats.
If Struemke seeks to practice law again, he’ll need to demonstrate “sufficient recovery” from the infirmity or illness that led to him being placed on disability inactive status, state rules say. Additionally, the Wyoming Supreme Court said Struemke would also need to complete “an accredited college or law school writing class” and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam; the exam tests a lawyer’s knowledge about the ethics of the profession and all attorneys must pass it before being admitted to the bar.
As for whether he’ll look to get back into practicing law, “the only thing I can say is I guess I’ll see where I’m at when I get back” from deployment, Struemke said, but “I wouldn’t count on it.”
“I might do something else and I know there’s other things that I might be interested in as well,” he said. “But again, that’s all down the road.”