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Home » For Lawyers » Pro Bono » Pro Bono Headlines » A bear, an interrupted vacation, a couple of all-nighters and change to save a guy's life?

07.02.04

: Below is a vivid account about the experience written by one of Robert C. Bundy's Dorsey & Whitney colleagues.

A bear, an interrupted vacation, a couple of all-nighters and a chance to save a guy's life?it all added up to ?the most satisfying week in my professional career,? says Bob Bundy, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney LLP's Anchorage office, who stepped in at the eleventh hour of the Joe Lee Guy death penalty hearing.

It was the week before Joe Lee Guy's last chance to avoid execution, and Steve Wells and Pat McLaughlin ? lead partners on the Dorsey pro bono team representing Guy ? were totally organized. After pouring themselves into the case since 2000, they had their facts, their law, and their hearing strategy down cold. The team was ready.

Then, just days before the continuation of the hearing (which had started in October 2003 but had been stayed) was to begin, Steve's wife became seriously ill, and it soon became apparent she would need emergency surgery (she is now recovering). The judge was asked for a continuance; he denied it. The show would have to go on, but ?I knew that if there was anyone who could take over for me, I had to stay behind with my wife and kids,? Steve said.

But who? Steve immediately thought of Bob Bundy, a trial partner in Dorsey's Anchorage office and former U.S. Attorney for Alaska. ?Bob understands criminal cases, and he's a very experienced trial lawyer.?

Meanwhile, Bob was enjoying the opening of trout season in Alaska's Katmai National Park, famous for its volcanoes, brown bears, fish, and rugged wilderness. No clients?no worries?and no phones.

That is, until Anchorage partner-in-charge Jim Reeves calls a bush pilot who radioes the lodge at Katmai who gets word to Bob who radioes back to Jim Reeves at home. The story is spilled, and Bob agrees to cut short his vacation to help out with the hearing.

Next morning, after being chased out of a trout stream by one of those famous brown bears, Bob boards a float plane and returns to Anchorage, where he squeezes in a Father's Day brunch at home, gathers up the foot-high pile of case materials that had been e-mailed to the office, and by 5:00 pm is on a plane to Lubbock, Texas ? ready to play understudy for Steve Wells.

?Except I hadn't studied,? Bob quipped. The 17-hour flight was his first chance to read and absorb all the work that had been done by the team since 2000. But having worked in criminal law, ?you get used to having to get ready fast,? he says.

Bob and the rest of the team gathered in Lubbock on Monday to prepare, with Bob taking Steve's parts in the hearing plan. Day one of the hearing, on Wednesday, went well, but on Thursday?a new wrinkle: Due to an unexpected order in another matter, Pat would have to leave to make an appearance in Chicago on Friday.

The hearing assignments would have to be re-shuffled. Again. Another late night for Bob and the team.

But it was a case of all's-well-that-ends-well when U.S. District Court Sam R. Cummings on Friday threw out Guy's death sentence and sent the case back to state court. ?When I whispered to Joe ?we won!? his face lit up like fireworks,? Bob said.

It was exhausting, but ?I had the privilege of working with a great group of people, ? he said. ?Steve, Pat, Andre Hanson, Todd Trumpold, Marisa Hesse, Cathy Gress-Springer and our Texas colleagues were stupendous. It was the most professionally rewarding week I've ever spent.?

 

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