By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Gov. Mark Gordon not to appoint a new superintendent of public instruction until at least midnight Thursday.
Judge Scott Skavdahl ordered a brief halt to the process of appointing a new superintendent until he can hear arguments on a temporary restraining order that would block Gordon from naming a new superintendent from a list of three nominees he was given by the Wyoming Republican Party.
“Having conferred with counsel for the parties, and in order to allow and consider input from all defendants, it is hereby ordered that Governor Gordon shall not fill the vacant position of superintendent of public instruction with any candidate forwarded to him by the (Republican Party) …” the order said.
Skavdahl said a decision on the temporary restraining order will be issued before midnight Thursday, which is the deadline under state law for Gordon to appoint a new superintendent.
The order stems from a lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Wyoming Republican Party and its chairman Frank Eathorne by 16 individuals, including a number of former legislators, alleging that the system the party used to select nominees for the post is unconstitutional.
Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow resigned earlier this month to take a similar position in Virginia. Under Wyoming law, Gordon is to select a replacement to finish her unexpired term — which runs until January 2023 — from a list of three nominees submitted by the Wyoming Republican Party.
The party’s central committee, made up of three representatives from each county, selected three nominees for Gordon’s consideration from a field of 12 applicants during a meeting Saturday.
But the lawsuit, filed by former Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank, said giving each county three representatives violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions because it gives counties with small populations more influence in such decisions than counties with large populations.
A request for a temporary restraining order filed with the lawsuit asked that Gordon be prevented from selecting a replacement for Balow from the list of nominees submitted by the party because the nominees were selected in an unconstitutional manner.
Skavdahl’s order prohibits Gordon from acting on the nominees, who he interviewed Tuesday, until the judge can issue a decision on the request for a temporary restraining order.