SWEETWATER COUNTY – Samuel Soulé’s work has built a long-lasting legacy in Sweetwater County.
From his time as a county and circuit court judge to later work as a prosecuting attorney, Soulé is remembered for being a colorful, opinionated man who cared for his coworkers and friends, as well as those who appeared before him in his court.
Circuit Court Judge John Prokos worked in the Sweetwater County Attorney’s Office during Soulé’s final years as a judge and was Soulé’s supervisor when he joined the county attorney’s office after retiring from the bench.
“He didn’t need to come back to work,” Prokos said. “I think he just needed to be in the mix.”
Prokos said Soulé was a larger-than-life person who was always fun to talk with. Prokos said that personality was reflected in his signature as Soulé used big, broad strokes to sign his name on a document.
“Every lawyer that has practiced in Sweetwater County has a Sam story,” Prokos said.
Prokos said Soulé could be very opinionated at times, but did not have a malicious streak in him. He said Soulé respected his court clerks and often looked out for them. That respect and desire to look out for people carried with him to his time at the county attorney’s office. Prokos recalled a specific incident where Soulé assisted in replacing a dead battery in District Court Judge Suzannah Robinson’s truck when she also worked in the county attorney’s office.
“Sam was a good guy,” he said.
After Prokos became the Green River Circuit Court Judge in 2013, Soulé had stopped by early on to show his support. Prokos recalls a brief moment prior to his robing ceremony where Soulé, dressed in western attire, approached him and pinned a lapel pin on him.
“Remember now, you’re going to be a judge in the State of Wyoming,” Prokos recalled Soulé telling him in his Virginian accent.
After Prokos was appointed, he was juggling duties with the Rock Springs Circuit Court as a vacancy had opened when Judge Dan Forgey was appointed to be a district court judge in Natrona County. Prokos said Soulé had stopped by an arraignment Prokos presided over where the defendant was from out of state and emotionally distraught. Prokos said he patiently walked the defendant through the process as Soulé watched from a small corner of the Rock Springs courtroom. After the hearing was adjourned, Prokos said Soulé approached his bench and spoke with him.
“He said, ‘You know John, if you keep it up that way, you’ll do a great job,’” Prokos recalled.
Prokos said Soulé leaves a legacy in Sweetwater County. He helped transition what was a county court to the current circuit court system under the Wyoming Judicial Branch in 2000. When Soulé retired from the bench in 2006, he was the longest-serving county court and circuit court judge at the time, having originally been appointed to be the first county court judge in Rock Springs by Gov. Ed Hershler in 1981.
“He’s always going to have a space in our hearts,” Prokos said.
Judge Robinson met Soulé in 2008 when she was a newly-hired deputy county attorney. He was assigned to show her the ropes when it came to being a prosecuting attorney. For Robinson, Soulé was a kind, patient man who helped her become a great prosecutor.
“He taught me things as simple as when to stand in the courtroom, how to correctly fill out dozens of appearance orders for a long afternoon of misdemeanor arraignments, and things not so simple, like recognizing when to question arguments and push back on a defense attorney,” she wrote in an email to SweetwaterNOW.
He also served as her second chair, the attorney assisting the primary prosecutor, for her first trial. She remembers the case being a misdemeanor battery case where one woman had slapped another at a bar in Rock Springs. The trial ended in a guilty verdict and she recalls Soulé not telling her other attorneys thought she wouldn’t win the case because the defense attorney, Tom Burnside, was a talented trial lawyer.
While she didn’t know Soulé as a judge, she had heard stories from other attorneys and judges about the man who left no one guessing about what he was thinking. But, there were aspects of the judge few people got to see as well. Robinson said her husband told her of instances he visited Soulé in the middle of the night to have search warrants approved and was handed Soulé’s guitar to play as the judge reviewed those warrants.
“I knew Sam as someone who took me under his wing,” she wrote. “He was always kind and always patient with me, and he reminded me of my grandfather – a man who had an answer for everything, whether I knew there was a question to be answered or not. And that was okay, because the answer was always interesting, with Sam’s cowboy boot flair.”
Sweetwater County Attorney Dan Erramouspe also learned from Soulé, albeit in a different manner.
“I cut my teeth on going to his court,” Erramouspe told SweetwaterNOW.
When he was a prosecuting attorney, Erramouspe would work the 1 p.m. arraignments in Soulé’s court on a daily basis. Erramouspe describes Soulé as a colorful man who didn’t seem to want defendants getting comfortable appearing in his court.
“He believed the best thing for some of them was not to want to see him in a professional setting,” he said.
While he admits there were people that appeared in Soulé’s court who disliked the judge, Erramouspe never heard him speak ill of other people. He also said having worked in Soulé’s court so frequently allowed him to see Soulé wasn’t uncaring while sitting at the bench.
Erramouspe recalls seeing one defendant who was about to be sentenced and was someone who Soulé had known outside of court. Prior to issuing his sentence, Soulé told the defendant to talk to his father, telling the defendant he needed to get back to his roots and re-establish a relationship with his father. Erramouspe said the defendant broke down and started sobbing after hearing those words.
“He didn’t preach,” Erramouspe said. “I don’t remember the defendant’s name, so he didn’t get in trouble after that.”
Erramouspe said Soulé loved being a part of Sweetwater County and enjoyed the Wyoming lifestyle. Working in Soulé’s court is an experience he will always cherish.
“He was a colorful guy. You just had to know him,” he said. “I wouldn’t change that for anything.”