District Judge Steven Cranfill in Cody has only two months left on the job. He’ll retire soon, after presiding over some of the most violent cases in Park County history. Ironically, he spends his personal time getting ready for court by buying toys.
On May 16, a defendant pleaded guilty to murder in Park County’s District Court, in a case that involved post mortem decapitation. Yet, this was not the most violent case presented in Steven Cranfill’s court.
There were several others. Later, the judge was spotted in a gift shop.
He said, “Racoons. Racoons are good.”
To prepare for an upcoming court session, the judge was buying stuffed toys.
He finished, “And of course the bears. The bears.”
Why would a judge spend time and money to buy toys to take to court?
This is why. He let a baby pick between a bear, and a moose, “Okay, the moose. That’s the deal.”
People come to Judge Cranfill’s court to petition for adoption. They ask permission to take a child as their own, forever. Every time he approves an adoption, Judge Cranfill celebrates the occasion , with stuffed animals for the children.
He explained, “This is a great event. It’s a family event. It’s one that we went through 34 years ago.”
Cranfill said when he and his wife Dana adopted their first child in California, there was little fanfare…
“He signed the order. We left. Dana and I looked at each other, and said, really? Is this all there is?”
So, Cranfill was determined that when he presided over an adoption, it would be more than just a legality…
He commented on the toys, “And it’s a small symbol, and something that I hope will remind them of what I hope has been a very special day for them.”
And, it was for this family. They only wanted to be identified by their first names: Mom: Lindsay, Dad: Doug, 3 year old Rowdy, 5 year old Addi, and the newest family member: 7 month old Theo.
We asked if the young children would remember the judge’s celebration…
Doug said, “I think they’ll remember the stuffed animals they got, so they’ll certainly like that part about it.”
Do adopted kids really remember the stuffed toys?
The judge answered, “And I got a card where I’ve done every child in a family, five of them. People remember that. They send me photos, they send me card of thanks and I kept them all.”
Judge Cranfill said adoptions are his favorite legal proceedings. He’s had a lot of them. The judge has approved and celebrated almost 200 adoptions in his time on the bench.