In this wide-ranging interview, TLC faculty member and former TLC Board member Mel Orchard lends his wisdom, knowledge, and experience to the issue of Civil Rights and qualified immunity.
Mel has served as a trial lawyer for over 27 years, and his passion for his work still burns bright. Here he discusses his concerns about efforts underway to further limit the liability of corporations for harm to their workers and to the public – an issue of particular urgency in the harsh light of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Of the three pillars of our democracy, our judiciary is still, in American life, the most respected,” Mel says. “We still have plenty of good judges; we still have plenty of good lawyers. We officers of the court are responsible for this pillar of our democracy. But the powers that want more power have been eroding this particular pillar of late like we have never seen. This is just one more chink at the bottom of the pillar. Do you think workers’ lives will be safer or less safe when businesses will not be held accountable for unsafe practices?”
Mel touches on the importance of truly listening and being present, in life and in trial, rather than trying to spin and manipulate. “All you can do is listen, hope to find some common theme that makes sense, then put your trust in these people and tell an honest story.”
Mel calls on his fellow TLC alumni to come together as a family to serve one another and strengthen the jury trial system. “Let’s not go back on the teaching. Let’s pay it forward and continue to provide safe spaces for us to be creative. We’ve got a world to change.”
Mel Orchard has been a trial lawyer, trying cases in the courtrooms across America, for the past 27 years. Mel has litigated and/or tried hundreds of cases in his career and has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in settlement and verdicts for his clients. During his trial career, Mel has been a part of record-breaking civil jury verdicts in various jurisdictions (Wyoming, Arizona, and Iowa). He has also devoted significant time to pro bono work through Lawyers and Advocates for Wyoming, and many local and national charities.
In addition to preparing for trial or being in trial, Mel was a senior faculty member and board member at the Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming and was recently selected to join the Board.
Mel also lectures and presents to various legal organizations throughout the country including Bar Associations, Leadership Organizations, and has taught Judicial Ethics to various groups of judges. He was Chairman of the Wyoming Commission for Judicial Conduct and Ethics where he served as a member for six years after appointment.
Mel has a degree in Finance from Washington State University (1988). He is a Past President of the University of Wyoming College of Law student body (1992), Past President of the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association (2000), and a current Governor of the American Association of Justice (2005 to Present). He is Board Certified as a Trial Attorney by both the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) where he is currently serving as the Wyoming Chapter President. Mel is AV® Rated by Martindale-Hubbell® and has been included in the Super Lawyers® list in Rocky Mountain every year since 2013. Mel has been selected as a member of the prestigious Summit Council, limited to 30 members in the United States, which requires its lawyers to not only demonstrate significant success in the courtroom, but to be in leadership for law-related organizations that fight for the rights of ordinary people. Mel has also been inducted into the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and International Society of Barristers, two organizations that require scrupulous investigation of members’ credentials.
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