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Jackson Luxury Hotel Sues Designer For Not Soundproofing Walls Enough

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The developer of a luxury hotel in downtown Jackson is suing the hotel’s designer, alleging, among other things, that the hotel’s walls don’t do enough to dampen sound.

CCC Center Street, a Jackson company, is seeking at least $150,000 from the IBI Group, a California company, for what it called errors and omissions in the design of The Cloudveil hotel.

The Cloudveil, located on Jackson’s Center Street less than one block from the Jackson Town Square, is a high-end hotel with nightly rates for this weekend running from $479 per night for a double-queen bedroom to $949 per night for a 1-bedroom suite. It is part of Marriott’s “Autograph Collection.” 

The hotel opened in May of 2021 and was the subject of a Forbes Travel Guide article that described it as “a gateway to the national parks.”

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday accused IBI of errors and omissions in its design of the hotel, including errors on the canopy roof color and hotel’s emergency generator and exhaust system.

The lawsuit said CCC notified IBI of the problems in March 2021 and demanded reimbursement for damages, but IBI failed to respond.

In December 2021, CCC said it notified IBI that the hotel’s walls were not dampening noise as much as CCC had wanted.

“The interior wall assemblies do not meet the applicable performance for sound transmission as a result of IBI’s failure to coordinate the design of the (hotel) among its subconsultants and other parties providing design services,” it said.

IBI has also failed to respond to CCC’s notice about the walls, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $75,000 for breach of contract and $75,000 for negligence, although the exact amount of damages is expected to be determined in trial.

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‘Roe v. Wade’ Court Leak ‘Deplorable,’ Could Backfire, Says Former Wyo Justice

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft decision on abortion will probably have little benefit and may even backfire on those responsible, according to several Wyoming attorneys.

The draft decision leaked last week to Politico seemed to show that a majority of Supreme Court justices support the reversal of the landmark abortion ruling “Roe v. Wade,” which recognized abortion as a constitutionally guaranteed right.

Former Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Bill Hill, who spent 20 years on the court, said the early release of the draft opinion may have the opposite effect of what the person who released the ruling may have intended.

“I think it could very easily backfire on the on those who wanted it released, surreptitiously,” he told Cowboy State Daily.

Lander attorney Christine Lichtenfels said she does not believe the leak benefited pro-choice advocates because they had been expecting the court to eventually overturn the 1973 ruling.

“What’s really going to matter is in June when the decision comes out,” she said.

The leak of the draft ruling, believed to be the first in the U.S. Supreme Court’s history, was harshly criticized by Hill, who spent several years as the Wyoming high court’s chief justice.

“It’s despicable, deplorable and criminal,” he said.

Hill said he sees the leak as a criminal theft of confidential U.S. government property and said the party found responsible will be in “deep trouble.” 

He said during his time on the Wyoming Supreme Court, such drafts were frequently circulated among the justices and their clerks.

“It gives each justice a chance to comment on the final order,” he said. “You’re depending on the good faith of your colleagues and the employees of your colleagues on the court to look out for the court.”

Hill said he had no recollection of any court documents being released preemptively during his 20 years as a justice.

The leak spurred protests over the weekend by demonstrators on either side of the issue, some of whom gathered at the homes of U.S. Supreme Court justices and outside of churches.

The draft opinion, which is expected to become official later this year, showed the majority of justices favor overturning Roe v. Wade. If the ruling remains unchanged prior to its final release, it will return authority over abortions to the states.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who called the leak “appalling,” has demanded an investigation into the source of the leak.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, an attorney who previously served in the state Legislature and as state Treasurer, also criticized the leak.

“Whoever leaked the draft opinion to the media has done the Supreme Court a great disservice,” she said. “They undermined decades of precedent and attempted to fundamentally alter the way our highest Court operates.”

Lichtenfels runs Chelsea’s Fund, an organization that provides money for women leaving the state to obtain abortions.

She said she was more concerned with the content of the draft and the tone and language used by Justice Samuel Alito on behalf of the conservative majority of the court than with its leak.

“He showed an unbelievable disdain he showed for previous Supreme Court decisions and justices,” she said.

A number of theories have been offered for the document’s leak involving both pro-choice and pro-life forces, but Hill said he has no guesses as to the leaker’s motivation.

The release of the draft hasn’t slowed the plans of Wellspring Health Access and its owner Julie Burkhart from planning to open a new abortion clinic in Casper, the state’s second, this summer.

Tim Lasseter, a member of Park County Right to Life, said his organization and Wyoming Right to Life plan to protest outside the facility on its opening day.

Wyoming is one of many states to have adopted a “trigger” law that would ban abortions within five days of an official reversal of Roe v. Wade.

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Barrasso, Lummis Will Vote Against Jackson Confirmation To Supreme Court

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Both of Wyoming’s U.S. senators plan to vote against Judge Kentaji Jackson’s appointment to the nation’s highest court.  

Nominated by President Joe Biden, Jackson is expected to be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the U.S. Senate in the coming days. The confirmation vote follows a tie vote along party lines in the Senate Judiciary Committee on whether to recommend Jackson’s appointment.

Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican, said he had hoped Biden would select a more moderate judge to fill the vacancy created with the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer.

“President Biden had an opportunity to make a more mainstream choice,” Barrasso wrote in an email to Cowboy State Daily. “Instead, he once again listened to the most extreme voices in his party.” 

Jackson made headlines last month when Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, asked during a confirmation hearing how Jackson would define the word “woman.”  

Jackson refused to give a definition, saying “I’m not a biologist.”  

Barrasso did not reference the exchange directly, but noted other concerns, namely that Jackson may “legislate from the bench.” 

“I disagree with Judge Jackson’s judicial philosophy and interpretation of the Constitution,” he said, noting that Supreme Court justices make decisions that “impact Wyoming and our country for generations to come.”  

‘Duty to Oppose’ 

Wyoming’s junior senator, Republican Cynthia Lummis, told Cowboy State Daily that it is her “duty to oppose” Jackson’s confirmation, given what Lummis has learned about her record and philosophy.  

“I take my constitutional duty of fully vetting each of the president’s nominees very seriously,” Lummis wrote in an email, adding that she met Jackson personally, spoke with others, and reviewed Jackson’s record.  

“I am not confident that she will be able to fairly and impartially interpret the Constitution as originally drafted,” wrote Lummis. “Though I expect that she will ultimately be confirmed, on behalf of the people of Wyoming I believe it is my duty to oppose her nomination.” 

Republicans on Board 

Jackson’s confirmation is expected to pass the Senate because three Republicans have announced their decisions to vote to confirm her: Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska.  

Romney, a former presidential candidate who unsuccessfully challenged Barack Obama, called Jackson “well-qualified,” and said she “more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity.”  

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State Legal Panel Says Laramie County D.A. Should Pay $91,000 For Hearing Expenses

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A group that oversees Wyoming’s attorneys is asking that Laramie County’s district attorney be required to pay more than $91,000 in expenses for the hearing into allegations against her.

The Board of Professional Responsibility, in its recommendation to the Wyoming Supreme Court, asked that Leigh Anne Manlove be required to repay the Wyoming State Bar almost $91,197 for expenses related to the eight-day hearing by the Board of Professional Responsibility.

The recommendation is one of several included in the BPR’s final report on allegations Manlove has failed to competently carry out the duties of her office. The report also recommends that Manlove be barred from the practice of law. 

The Wyoming Supreme Court will decide on whether the BPR’s recommendations will be followed.

An affidavit filed with the BPR’s report on allegations against Manlove showed that the largest share of the expenses, almost $64,636, was for lodging, meals, meeting space and audio-visual needs at Cheyenne’s Little America, where the hearing was held.

The affidavit was released Tuesday along with other documents in response to a motion by Manlove to make the documents in her case a matter of public record.

According to the affidavit, meeting space at Little America for the hearings ran at least $1,500 per day. On one day of the hearing, Feb. 4, the cost for the meeting room increased to $2,600.

A second, smaller meeting room set up for meals for BPR members and staff cost another $350 per day and wireless internet service, with a download speed of 25 megabytes per second, cost $825 per day.

Transcripts of the proceedings cost $12,882, the affidavit said, and expenses for the special bar counsel, the attorney in charge of the investigation into allegations against Manlove, were $9,332.

The February hearing was held to allow the BPR to study the allegations against Manlove and determine what action to recommend to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

The charges against Manlove, elected to office in 2018, included allegations she exaggerated the impact of budget cuts on her office to dismiss almost 1,000 cases from Laramie County courts.

The special counsel for the state bar, W.W. Reeves, began his investigation into the allegations after all seven of Laramie County’s judges wrote a letter expressing concerns about her performance in office.

Manlove has until May 2 to submit her response to the BPR’s recommendations.

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Man Convicted Of Torturing, Killing 22-Month-Old Daughter Files Federal Appeal

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A man convicted in 2006 of killing his toddler daughter is asking a federal court to reverse his murder conviction, saying a recent U.S. Supreme Court case supports his claims that he was prosecuted in the wrong jurisdiction.  

Andrew Yellowbear Jr. was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2006 for abusing and murdering his 22-month-old daughter Marcella Yellowbear. The girl died July 2, 2004 after weeks of torture in a Riverton apartment.  

Because the crime occurred in Riverton, Yellowbear was convicted in state, not federal court. He has filed multiple appeals arguing that the Wind River Indian Reservation abutting the town should include Riverton within its borders, based on the 1868 Treaty between the Shoshone Tribes and the federal government.  

Therefore, Yellowbear has argued, he was convicted in the wrong court and should be freed.  

Courts have rebutted Yellowbear’s prior appeals by deferring to the Surplus Land Act of 1905, a new treaty that diminished the boundaries of the reservation and placed the town of Riverton under state, not tribal and federal, jurisdiction.  

But this time, Yellowbear’s bid for freedom cites McGirt vs. Oklahoma – a 2020 Supreme Court case that raised the standards for reviewing historical agreements in which tribes have given up portions of reservation lands to other entities.    

McGirt re-established the Muscogee Nation in Oklahoma, barring state police and prosecutors from enforcing state laws within its borders and relegating law enforcement instead to tribal and federal authorities, depending on the offense.  

In His Own Hand 

Yellowbear is representing himself in his appeal. A perpetual litigant, he has sued or petitioned for various concessions and appeals more than a dozen times throughout his imprisonment in the Wyoming Department of Corrections.  

Yellowbear wrote in his most recent petition that in 2008 he was given a new sentencing document with just one felony-murder conviction, instead of the original four, several months after his actual sentencing. He asserted that with the altered sentencing terms, he should have been given a new sentencing hearing and a chance to argue for a lesser punishment before a judge.  

Felony murder is a variant of first-degree murder punishable by life in prison with or without parole, or the death penalty. Felony murder is a murder that occurs in the course of another felony, such as child abuse. 

Yellowbear wrote that the court should consider his appeal again because it refers to the newer sentencing terms, rather than the older ones.  

He asked the court to “review anew… jurisdictional claims” in light of the McGirt standards.  

Innumerable Abrasions 

When she died on July 2, 2004, court documents state, Yellowbear’s daughter Marcella Hope Yellowbear was 22 months old, and riddled with “innumerable abrasions, wounds, burns, and broken bones.”  

The cause of her death was deemed “repetitive, abusive, blunt-force injuries,” and the manner of death was homicide.  

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Federal Judge Sides With Wyoming Gun Owners In Campaign Ad Lawsuit

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By Jim Angell and Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A federal judge has ruled that the state cannot force a Second Amendment advocacy group to share the names of its donors.

Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled Monday in favor of the group Wyoming Gun Owners, finding that the Wyoming law requiring the the group to share a list of people who helped pay for a campaign ad is unconstitutional.

“This case demonstrates the delicate balance of the First Amendment right to engage in political speech verses the need to provide for an informed electorate during elections by requiring disclosure of those who are funding media and promoting certain candidates throughout election season,” Skavdahl wrote.

“However, while this is of critical importance, the state can only impose these disclosure and disclaimer requirements where it satisfies exacting scrutiny,” he wrote.

The lawsuit stems from a radio ad paid for by WyGO in 2020 comparing state Senate candidates Anthony Bouchard and Erin Johnson. The ad portrayed Bouchard as a Second Amendment champion and Johnson as a “self-described, country-club, chamber of commerce moderate.”

The Wyoming secretary of state’s office, acting on a complaint, said WyGO was required to file campaign finance reports, including a list of contributions and expenditures, because it had spent more than $500 on “political activity.”

The state cited a law which requires groups involved in such activity to list all contributions of more than $100 used for political activity.

But Skavdahl said it would be impossible for the organization to determine which contributions would be used specifically for political advertising and which would be used to pay for other activities, such as the group’s newsletters.

“WyGO does not only fund electioneering communications or focus on election issues, but rather offers several media formats to keep subscribers informed on Second Amendment rights,” the ruling said.

Skavdahl also said the statute is also unconstitutional because it calls for the reporting of expenditures which “relate to” campaign communications, a term he said was unconstitutionally vague.

As a result, the law is unconstitutional as it was applied to WyGO, Skavdahl wrote.

Bouchard said he tried to warn fellow legislators the language in the law was an unconstitutional obstacle to the First Amendment.

“During this year’s session, another bill to expand the same section of law was passed and signed by the Governor,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Both times I argued against the legislation and tried to amend it. It fell on deaf ears. It makes the judge’s order ever so sweet. 

“Yes, free speech matters,” he continued. “I told you so.”

Secretary of State Ed Buchanan said his office would review the ruling and added he was glad the court had decided the issue.

“When there is disagreement about the meaning of a particular statutory provision, the appropriate place to seek clarification is with the judicial branch,” he said. “I am grateful that is what occurred in this case.

“I would like to thank the court for its well-reasoned decision,” he continued.

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