CHEYENNE – As his wife held out his new black robe, Tony Ross slipped his arms through the sleeves and zipped up the nearly floor-length garment.
For the foreseeable future, this black robe will be a staple in Ross’ new work attire because Friday morning at the Cheyenne Municipal Building, Ross was officially sworn in as the city’s new senior municipal judge.
Ross is taking the reins from former Judge Mark Moran, who retired Tuesday after serving as a municipal judge since 1999. Mayor Marian Orr picked Ross for the appointment, which was approved by the Cheyenne City Council at its Dec. 19 meeting.
Ross is a Cheyenne native who spent his career working as a lawyer and a politician. He retired in 2016 from the Wyoming Legislature after serving nearly 20 years in the role to focus more on his family and law practice.
When Ross first retired, he remembers having a conversation with his wife about what he would do with his retirement. He recalled toying with the idea of charity work, and what would be the next chapter of his life.
Now, it’s clear what that next chapter will be. This appointment was an “answer to prayer,” he said. Ross was joined at the ceremony by numerous friends and family members.
“There’s a lot to absorb again. I feel like a freshman legislator just drinking water out of a fire hose trying to figure out the news, the court and everything that’s going on,” Ross said. “I’ve been blessed with a great life, and it’s an honor to continue to serve the people of Cheyenne.”
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., was at the ceremony to give remarks. Barrasso had served with Ross when he was in the Wyoming Legislature.
During his remarks, Barrasso said Ross’ judgeship is the icing on the cake of an incredible career and a commitment to the people in the community. Barrasso commended Ross on his leadership in the Wyoming Senate, as he quickly ascended the ranks and became Senate president.
Barrasso also congratulated Ross on his work with getting the Wyoming State Capitol restored as chairman of the Capitol Rehabilitation and Restoration Oversight Group. He said this work will stand the test of time for another 100 years.
Ross graduated from the University of Wyoming’s Law School in 1978. Seventy-five years earlier, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the university. One of the things Roosevelt shared was that people get a great education at UW, but what is more important than the education is the character of the people, Barrasso said. Barrasso said this is true in Ross because he said Orr nominated someone with great character.
As a judge, Ross said he aims to focus on “fundamental fairness,” which he said is the “compass” that has steered him throughout his career.
“To me, it’s not just the rich and the powerful, or the low – people that are poor,” Ross said. “They all should be exactly the same. They all should have the rights of due process, equal protection of the laws and treated equally, regardless of where they stand in the community.”
He said there might be times when people don’t like the rules, but his decisions will be logical and fair. He said he believes in the rule of law, and the application of that law to every case on a fundamentally fair basis.
The city is going to be moving forward both literally and figuratively, Orr said. With Ross’ appointment, Orr said she is bursting with pride. She said she’s not only excited for this administration, but for the entire community.
“Well, you know, they always say that politics is closest to the people, and that’s really true when it comes to the judicial branch,” Orr said. “For some folks, maybe their first interaction with the judicial system is at the municipal court level. I want the community to know that what they have in Judge Ross is absolutely a fair judge and an impartial judge.”
Ross’ judgeship came at a perfect time for him, and for the community, she said. The municipal court has gone through a bunch of changes with new technology and the planned move to a new building being built downtown.
Ross said his first goal for his judgeship is to get into the new courthouse and make sure it’s efficient. He said he wants to make sure the new technology in the court works well, along with the case management system.
“My goal for myself is that I know when I go home at the end of the night, I did a good job,” Ross said. “I listened to each and every case, and listened to each and every person, because everybody deserves that. If I can do that and go home, I’ll be able to sleep.”