"May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” -Peter Marshall
Stop a stranger on the street and ask them how U.S. Supreme Court Justices are selected. Ever since then-Senator Joe Biden orchestrated the high-tech lynching of Clarence Thomas in 1991, Americans have been subjected to highly politicized and heavily televised Supreme Court nomination proceedings. But even so, many wouldn’t be able to accurately describe the nomination and confirmation process.
Even fewer would be able to explain how justices of the Wyoming Supreme Court get their spots on the bench. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. The judicial branch was always intended to be insulated from the political flames of the day.
But we are not living in normal times. Federal court nominees can’t explain which branch of government is constructed by Article III of the U.S. Constitution, openly admit that they don’t know what a woman is, all while state courts in unprecedented form readily throw candidates from the ballot. Americans have lost trust in the judiciary, and are paying closer attention than ever.
That’s why it’s important to take note of what’s happening here in Wyoming. Under current law, Wyoming Supreme Court Justices are required to retire at age 70. When a vacancy occurs, the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission (created by Article 5, Section 4 of the Wyoming Constitution) presents three potential candidates to the Governor, who then has thirty days to pick one as the new Justice.
Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Keith Kautz, after having served three decades, will be required by law to retire in March 2024, and the Commission has already presented its three names to Governor Gordon: Stuart Healy (currently serving as District Judge in Campbell, Crook, and Weston Counties), Robert Jarosh (a Cheyenne attorney), and Tim Stubson (a Casper attorney).
We are alarmed by the selection of Mr. Stubson, not because we disagree on nearly every political issue under the sun, but because of his active participation in divisive, partisan politics. Not only does Stubson regularly engage in partisan political debates on social media (which any judicial officer knows to refrain from), Cowboy State Politics has discovered that he is currently the chairman of two active Political Action Committees: the Wyoming Caucus PAC and the Team Wyoming PAC. Serving as the head of a PAC is an inherently partisan activity, which is why PACs are heavily regulated by the Wyoming Legislature and Secretary of State’s Office.
Partisan politics are fun. Helping out on a political campaign or two can be exhilarating, especially when your candidate for Governor wins. Going on PBS News Hour to share your love for Liz Cheney is definitely an accomplishment. But these are not the kind of activities an impartial jurist participates in.
Some may cry hypocrisy for us, vocal conservatives, to be raising these concerns. That would be true if we were seeking a spot on the bench, but we’re not. We hope that Governor Gordon sees the potential to bring the Wyoming Supreme Court into disrepute by placing an active political insider to the bench. If you agree that an active partisan has no role on the bench, contact Governor Gordon’s office at 307-777-7434. After all, in Wyoming, the buck stops with the Governor as our state’s system lacks a senate confirmation process. Once Governor Gordon makes his pick, this person goes straight to the Court. Please urge him to avoid the partisan choice.
Jeremy Haroldson, House District 4
Mark Jennings, House District 30