By Daniel Bendtsen
Via Wyoming News Exchange
LARAMIE — Albany County circuit court Judge Robert Castor should make a ruling on the legality of the University of Wyoming’s gun ban, Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said in a Friday court filing.
Trent’s office is currently prosecuting Lyle Williams, a Uinta County man, for trespassing after he refused to leave the UW Conference Center in 2018 when he was open-carrying during the Wyoming Republican Party’s annual convention in Laramie.
Williams was the only person to receive such a citation, but was among about a dozen such delegates who solicited citations as a way of challenging the legality of UW’s regulation.
As part of Williams’s prosecution, defense attorney Jason Tangeman has asked Castor to turn the “question of law” part of the case over to district court.
Tangeman has said it’s his hope that the Wyoming Supreme Court will ultimately decide the case.
Getting that to happen is a lot easier from district court, which gives parties the automatic right to appeal.
If, instead, Castor were the one to make a ruling in the case, it would only get to the state’s high court if the justices were to grant a writ of certiorari.
Initially, Kricken did issue a declaratory judgment on the matter in December 2018. But when that made it to the Wyoming Supreme Court this year, the justices threw out her decision on a 3-2 vote, saying it usurped Castor’s authority because the circuit court judge had not formally granted a motion for Kricken to take the case.
“Circuit court judges in Wyoming are not ‘laymen,’ have original jurisdiction over misdemeanor criminal cases, and are fully competent to decide ‘complicated legal question,’” the Supreme Court said.
That ruling from the Wyoming Supreme Court, Trent argues, “strongly suggests that the legal issue should be decide by the circuit court.”
“Circuit court should decide the motion to dismiss, and after said decision, either defense or the state can appeal to the district court. Thereafter, further review by the Wyoming Supreme Court is by discretionary writ of review,” Trent said.
If Castor were to decline Tangeman’s request, Castor would need to make a determination on the legality of UW’s gun ban — that is, unless, he were to determine the regulation’s legality has no bearing on whether a citation can be issued for its violation.
The Wyoming Rules of Appellate Procedure state that “a district court may answer question of law certified to it by a circuit court … if there is involved in any proceeding before the certifying court … a question of law which may be determinative of the cause pending in the certifying court … and concerning which it appears there is no controlling precedent in the decision of the supreme court.”