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Wyoming Attorney Who Fought COVID Mandates Suspended For Abandoning Clients

in Wyoming State Bar/Judiciary/News
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By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

A northern Wyoming attorney who has represented clients in a few Wyoming-based COVID-19 mandate-related cases has been suspended from practicing law for the second time in the past five years.

Buffalo attorney Nick Beduhn was placed under an indefinite, immediate suspension by the Wyoming Supreme Court upon a request by Melinda McCorkle, deputy bar counsel for the Wyoming State Bar. A formal charge was filed by the State Bar against Beduhn on Nov. 10.

The bar has accused Beduhn of abandoning clients and failing to cooperate with a bar counsel investigation into two disciplinary complaints made about him. 

Called Out By Judges

Beduhn is accused in a pair of complaints of abdicating his responsibilities while serving as an attorney for clients opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center and Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas in late 2021.

After submitting an initial filing for the case “that was poorly submitted and looked as though it was not looked over because there were many errors in the documentation,” Beduhn failed to take any future action in the case, according to complainant and plaintiff Tonya Middleton. 

Beduhn failed to formally withdraw from the case and made no efforts to communicate with his clients or the court, according to the complaint.

“Several of our people, who are part of this case, called, left messages as well as emailed him with no response,” Middleton writes. “We are now trying to find other representation to pick up our pieces.”

Beduhn also was the attorney for Grace Smith, a Laramie High School student arrested on suspicion of trespassing at the school in October 2021 after refusing to wear a face mask and leave the LHS campus. 

Smith, her father and nine other plaintiffs were represented by Beduhn in a federal lawsuit alleging claims of fraud against state officials and sought an injunction against any mandates or COVID policies concerning masks, social distancing, testing or quarantines. 

The plaintiffs argued the state of Wyoming extended its COVID-19 public health emergency longer than necessary to get federal funding.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal ruled in January that the plaintiffs did not adequately state a cause of action and failed to follow federal filing rules. 

The case was formally dismissed by Freudenthal in March, and she chastised Beduhn for failing to respond to several motions to dismiss the case, despite her orders reminding him of the briefing deadlines.

Beduhn also represented a different group of clients in an early 2021 lawsuit, requesting a court to make current and future COVID-19 health orders initiated by Gov. Mark Gordon, Wyoming State Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, and nearly every county health officer in Wyoming null and void. 

This case was dismissed in May 2021 by Judge William Edelman in Johnson County District Court, citing many procedural flaws in the way the case was filed as well as problems with the claims made in the lawsuit.

Neither the Freudenthal or Edelman cases cases were mentioned in the State Bar’s recent request to suspend Beduhn, a member of the Wyoming State Bar since 2003.

Suspension

Beduhn was suspended for a total of 2.5 years from 2017-2019 as a result of two separate suspension orders made during his time as a Park County public defender. Both stemmed from the Wyoming State Bar Board of Professional Responsibility’s findings that Beduhn was not diligent in attending to the duties of his cases and failed to communicate with clients in a number of cases. 

Beduhn did not fight the charges and has publicly accepted responsibility for his actions. He was granted reinstatement by January 2021.

Out of Pocket

The primary complaints against Beduhn in his most recent suspension is that he failed to communicate with both his clients and the court in the hospital vaccine mandate case. The case was dismissed in February because of Beduhn’s failure to respond to the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Beduhn failed to respond to a letter sent by the defendant’s attorney, Bradley Cave, about a recent Supreme Court case that rendered Beduhn’s case mostly moot, and a request Cave later made for sanctions to be taken against Beduhn. 

Although that later request was rejected because the case had already been dismissed, the court described Beduhn’s actions as leading to a “vexatious and unreasonable multiplication of proceedings.”

“By neither voluntarily dismissing the complaint nor defending it, Mr. Beduhn forced the defendants to incur needless attorney’s fees,” the court wrote.

Beduhn failed to meet a March 25 deadline, where he was asked to explain his conduct, and was ordered to pay $6,779 for the defendant’s legal fees. To date, Beduhn has not paid any of those fees.

Deadlines Missed, No Responses

By April, the State Bar got involved, demanding a response to the allegations made against him. On May 31, Beduhn requested an extension to respond to one of the complaints due to an ailing parent, 15 days after the deadline had already passed.

McCorkle granted an extension to June 6, but Beduhn failed to meet this deadline and has never issued a response to either complaint.

This was the same tactic Beduhn employed in 2017 when facing charges from the State Bar, failing to respond to repeated requests for response. Failure to respond to the bar is a violation of the Wyoming Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, which require attorneys to respond to disciplinary complaints.

On Oct. 13, McCorkle filed a petition for Beduhn’s immediate suspension, accusing him of failing to represent and communicate with his clients, providing false evidence, frivolous and unsupported claims to the court. Beduhn never responded to the petition.

“We had a concern of immediate harm being caused,” McCorkle told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

On Nov. 2, the Supreme Court granted the request for Beduhn’s immediate suspension.

McCorkle said it is rare that an attorney will have his or her right to practice law immediately suspended before charges have been filed.

Where Things Stand

Beduhn has yet to issue a response to the suspension order, for which there has been no deadline set. The Board of Professional Responsibility will perform a disciplinary hearing on the matter where McCorkle and Beduhn will be given a chance to present their cases and offer a recommendation, if any, for disciplinary action. 

McCorkle said the Board of Professional Responsibility will consider the American Bar Association’s sanction levels when issuing a recommendation, where Beduhn’s past suspensions will be taken into consideration. The ABA’s list of sanctions includes disbarment, suspension of up to three years, probation, reprimand, admonition and fees. 

The Board of Professional Responsibility’s recommendation will be brought before the Wyoming Supreme Court, which will make a final decision on the matter. 

Beduhn will be suspended indefinitely until that time comes, but he can request to have his suspension lifted while the investigation is ongoing.

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Wyoming Woman Sues Doctor Who Died In Plane Crash Over Injured Leg

in U.S. District Court for Wyoming/News/Health care
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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

Saying her leg has been numb and dysfunctional since her spinal surgery in Powell, a Cody woman is suing the hospital and the estate of her deceased spine surgeon.    

Sylvia Hutton underwent spinal surgery by Dr. Clinton James Devin at Powell Valley Healthcare on Dec. 17, 2020, according to a legal complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming.    

Devin was from Colorado but was licensed to work in Wyoming, and operated in both Cody and Powell. He died at age 46 in a plane crash near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in December 2021, according to his obituary.    

Hutton’s lawsuit accuses Devin, now represented by his estate, and Powell Valley Healthcare of negligence relating to injuries she endures following her surgery.    

Hutton is asking for more than $75,000 in damages, with the exact amount to be determined in court.    

Powell Valley Healthcare did not immediately respond to a message and email from Cowboy State Daily requesting comment.   

Screws And Rods   

In her lawsuit, Hutton alleges that Devin should have prepared her better for surgery with six weeks of bone-strengthening medication or should not have considered her for surgery at all, because her bones had been weakened by a bout she had with breast cancer.    

Devin acknowledged that Hutton’s bones were “extremely brittle,” the suit claims. 

It alleges that Devin implanted “multiple rods and screws into Ms. Hutton’s spine,” during which she showed signs of iatrogenic, or surgery-caused, nerve injury.    

Devin noted that because of Hutton’s poor bone quality, it was “very hard to see the pedicles,” or bridges between vertebrae, as he implanted screws into her spine, the complaint says.    

Hutton’s complaint says she had suffered from intermittent lower back pain for years prior to the surgery.  

Blood Pocket   

An operative note indicates Hutton lost 54 milliliters of blood during the surgery; an MRI and CT scan after the procedure showed a “fairly large” blood pocket at her surgical site, according to the complaint. 

Hutton alleges that Devin caused the blood pocket by using blood-stopping agents and drains “as a shortcut” instead of stopping the blood flow properly within the surgical site before closing it.    

Devin left Wyoming shortly after the surgery, Hutton claims, leaving her in the care of a physical assistant instead of under the watch of a neurosurgeon. She said she soon realized her left leg ached and was weak, and that she could no longer walk safely.    

Numb Leg And Foot   

After hearing of Hutton’s complications, the complaint continues, Devin returned to Wyoming and performed another operation four days after the first.    

Hutton claims the doctor misled her into thinking her post-operative complaints were a normal part of the surgery.    

On Dec. 23, two days after her second surgery, Hutton was transferred to a skilled nursing facility at the hospital instead of going home. The hospital discharged Hutton to her home Jan. 3, 2021, the suit says.    

“Ms. Hutton continues to be debilitated as a result of the … surgery and the delay in evacuating the hematoma (blood pocket) that foreseeably formed as a result of Dr. Devin’s substandard surgical techniques and poor patient selection,” reads the complaint.    

Hutton says she is still in pain, has limited mobility of her left leg, walks with a limp and has numbness down her calf and in her left foot.    

Hospital Charged   

Hutton’s complaint states that she also is suing the hospital because it credentialed Devin despite, she alleges, Devin having “an unreasonably high complication rate.” 

Hutton’s lawsuit says the hospital should have ensured that Devin or another neurosurgeon monitor her after her surgery.    

This lawsuit says that there were 22 lawsuits filed against Powell Valley Healthcare between 2012 and 2016. The first two were “settled confidentially,” the complaint continues, while the latter 20 “pressed the hospital into bankruptcy” in 2018.    

The hospital was “several million dollars in debt” because of a “prior dangerous surgeon,” Hutton alleges.    

Hutton’s lawsuit is ongoing in federal court. 

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Woman Who Slipped On Sidewalk In Wheatland 3 Years Ago Now Suing Family Dollar For Half Million

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Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

A Wyoming woman who slipped on an icy sidewalk at the Family Dollar in Wheatland three years ago is now suing the store chain for more than half a million dollars.   

Cherie Wilson in a federal court complaint filed Monday said that when she fell on the sidewalk in front of the store in December 2019, she incurred “personal injuries of physical and mental pain and anguish; permanent disability/disfigurement; lost income; loss of enjoyment of life,” and medical expenses that will extend into the future.    

Wilson alleged that the fall was due to downspouts on the building dumping drainage water “directly” onto the sidewalk.   

The Family Dollar store also had ignored “many warnings and prior injuries” caused by the ice, Wilson claimed in the suit.   

“They failed to maintain the building in a safe manner, failed that day to recognize the dangerous man-made condition and remedy the situation, and failed to warn the public,” the suit reads.   

Family Dollar Denies Allegations  

Family Dollar in its response to Wilson’s complaint asked the court to dismiss her claims altogether, saying Wilson failed to bolster her argument with sufficient facts. The business chain further alleged that the incident was Wilson’s own fault, others’ fault, or otherwise beyond Family Dollar’s control.   

“(Wilson’s) alleged injuries were proximately caused by… events beyond the control of (Family Dollar),” reads the counterclaim.   

Wilson had sued Family Dollar in May, in Platte County District Court, but because she asked for more than $75,000 in damages, the negligence case was transferred to federal court, the U.S. District Court for Wyoming.   

The whole suit was filed Friday in the federal court and is still pending.   

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Uinta County Judge Rules Political Party Bylaws Take Precedence Over Wyo State Laws

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter

Judge Joseph Bluemel dismissed a lawsuit against the Uinta County Republican Party and its leadership last Thursday, deciding the county party’s rules allow its leadership to decide who can vote for future county party leaders.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jon Conrad, a committee member who ran for the county chairman’s position.

“The recent decision by the Court has fully vindicated the Party and has proven the claims of Conrad and his co-complainants were without merit,” Uinta County GOP Chairman Elisabeth “Biffy” Jackson said in a post on the party’s Facebook page Monday night.  

In March 2021, previously-elected officers Jackson, Karl Allred, Lyle and Jana Lee Williams were allowed to vote in the county party’s leadership election, despite each losing their respective precinct committee elections in August 2020.

The 2021 leadership elections resulted in Jackson, the Williams’ daughter, becoming county chairman, Allred  state committeeman, and Jana Williams elected to state committeewoman. 

The lawsuit asked the court to declare the 2021 elections null and void, to order new elections to select officers and to rule that Jana Williams, Jackson and Allred take no action in the positions “they now improperly purport to hold.”

The plaintiffs unsuccessfully argued that the Uinta County Republican Party is governed exclusively by the state election code.

“Allowing the Uinta County Republican Party to disregard state statute by granting voting privileges to whomever they so desire, need, or wish to vote, in an obvious, blatant and brazen effort to maintain power among a dynastic group of exclusive individuals, is a violation of the (state) election code, which precludes those who are not qualified to vote in order to properly preserve election integrity and to prevent election fraud and corruption,” said initial filing written by the plaintiffs.  

State Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, Rep. Danny Eyre, R-Lyman, former Rep. Ron Micheli and county central committee members Clarence Vranish, Clara Jean Vranish and Troy Nolan joined Conrad in the lawsuit.

Under state law, precinct committeemen and women are elected in public primary elections but party leadership is elected through internal party elections. The precinct committeeman and committeewoman, along with the county party chair represent the county at meetings of the state party central committee and committee meetings during the state convention.

Although state and county Republican party bylaws specify elected county party officers can vote in elections along with precinct committeemen and women, state law says that voting can only be done by the county central committee, which consists, but the defendants argued is not limited to, the elected precinct committee members.  

The Uinta county party’s bylaws specifically allow elected officers who are not county committee members to vote at State Central Committee meetings. The state party also allows this.

In his decision, Bluemel said state law was purposely written in an unambiguous manner to avoid overregulating political associations. 

“The Uinta County Republican Party and its members decide “the stringency, and wisdom, of membership requirements … so long as those requirements are otherwise constitutionally permissible,””  Bluemel said, quoting a decision from a 1998 D.C. Circuit of Appeals case. 

The defendants said the court cannot interfere with the party and its members’ First Amendment right to free speech.

State law says during county party’s elections for officers, the county’s “central committee shall elect the chairman of the county central committee, one state committeeman and one state committeewoman and other offices as provided by the party bylaws.”

The defendants argued that in this law, the phrase “as provided by the party bylaws” indicates elections are to be conducted according to bylaws that allow for elected officers to vote, whether precinct committee members or not. They further argued that since state law identifies the county central committee of each political party as consisting of precinct committeemen and committeewomen elected in the county at the regular biennial primary election with no mention of the word “only,” it was not intended for a central committee to only consist of elected precinct committee members.  

The plaintiffs disagreed and said “as provided by the party bylaws” refers solely to “other offices” apart from the county officers. 

“When the taxpayers of the state of Wyoming fund an election and members of the Republican Party of Wyoming vote in that election for positions which represent them in the county and state level, the state must have a legitimate interest in the regulation of the same,” the plaintiffs argued.

Bluemel said the court cannot add words to laws to create meaning and said the issue is limited for the county party to decide.

“If the legislature had intended the phrase ‘as provided by the party bylaws’ to act as instruction as to how the county central committee should carry out the election, syntax would have directed the legislature to position the phrase within the sentence to construct that meaning,” Bluemel wrote. “The court must assume that the arrangement of the words within the statute is an ‘intentional act by the legislature’ and the court will not read into the statute words that the legislature chose not to include.”

Bluemel denied the defendant’s request compelling the plaintiffs to disclose their funding sources for the litigation. 

“While the Court has now resolved the matter in the Party’s favor, the case has uncovered a concerning trend of certain individuals seeking to divide the Republican Party,” Jackson said in her post.

A state-level political action committee known as Wyoming Hope was utilized to pay $5,000 of plaintiff Micheli’s legal expenses. This Teton County-based organization called Wyoming Hope, was set up by Jackson resident Wayne Hughes.

“For all perspectives involved, it was an important legal question needed to be answered: Do political parties need to follow Wyoming laws and statutes or simply internal bylaws?” Hughes told Cowboy State Daily. “The question needed to be answered so Wyoming could address it according to law.”

Hughes said Bluemel’s decision to find party bylaws more important than state law, was “kind of insane.”  

Hughes purchased Cowboy State Daily in early 2022. 

Conrad also filed a complaint with the Wyoming Secretary of State and solicited a criminal investigation against the Uinta County GOP officers. The Secretary of State determined that it lacked jurisdiction and no criminal charges were ever filed.

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Wyo Democratic Legislators Worry About Gay Marriage After Roe vs Wade Ruling

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

Language contained in U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe vs. Wade has state Democratic lawmakers worried about the future of other issues, such as gay marriage and the right to obtain contraceptives. 

In his concurring opinion on Friday’s ruling, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas announced that the rationale putting abortion access decisions in the hands of state governments could, in future cases, apply to other court precedents. He specifically mentioned landmark cases guaranteeing the right to engage in private, consensual sex acts; the right to same-sex marriage, and the right of married people to obtain contraceptives.   

“There’s this concern that many individual rights are threatened by this decision,” said Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson. “And I share those concerns.”  

Rep. Chad Banks, D-Rock Springs, echoed Schwartz.   

“Justice (Thomas) said abortion protection is not outlined specifically in the Constitution. If you take that logically to the next step, neither are LGBTQ rights,” said Banks.   

‘Between a Male and a Female  

Same-sex marriage became legal nationwide following Obergefell vs. Hodges, a 2015 Supreme Court case affirming the practice as a fundamental right. However, Wyoming legalized it earlier, in 2014, at the direction of a federal court that struck down gay-marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma as well.   

Although currently legal in Wyoming due to court precedent, state law defines marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman.   

Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, attempted three separate times between 2011 and 2014 to change the state’s definition of marriage to a civil contract between two natural persons, and again in 2018 and 2019.   

Substantive Due Process  

Thomas did not say that gay marriage or any other rights are bound to be overturned. But his reasoning opened the possibility the Supreme Court might reconsider rights that were once considered fundamental under the Fourteenth Amendment – such as abortion and gay marriage – and decide if the framers of the Constitution intended those as inherent rights.   

Neither abortion nor gay marriage are listed as rights in the Constitution or its amendments.   

“We could consider whether any of the rights announced in this Court’s substantive due process cases are ‘privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States’ protected by the Fourteenth Amendment,” Thomas wrote. “To answer that question, we would need to decide… whether the Privileges and Immunities Clause protects any rights that are not enumerated in the Constitution and if so, how to identify those rights.”  

The doctrine of substantive due process holds that certain personal rights are protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, even if they are not specifically listed in the Constitution as protected rights.   

Thomas, however, said that for Supreme Courts of the past to claim certain rights as fundamental when they aren’t specifically listed in the Constitution is a form of “judicial policymaking,” which in casual political parlance often is called “legislating from the bench.”   

“(The Court) invoked an ethereal ‘right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning,” wrote Thomas.   

He expressed sharp disagreement with the doctrine, especially relating to abortion, calling it a stretch from the Constitution’s intent:  

“That 50 years have passed since Roe, and abortion advocates still cannot coherently articulate the right (or rights) at stake proves the obvious: The right to abortion is ultimately a policy goal in desperate search of a constitutional justification,” he wrote.   

‘The Whole Idea – Just Gone’  

It’s absolutely likely that someone now will bring a court case challenging the various rights placed in limbo, according to Lander-based attorney Jon Gerard.   

“Someone will,” said Gerard after reading the concurrence. “(Thomas) is opening the door… just to get rid of substantive due process entirely. The whole idea – just gone.”   

Gerard quipped that some law school textbooks are in for a complete makeover.    

Different rights have different levels of protection, and for rights attributed to the Constitution and its amendments – as abortion formerly was – the highest level of protection from governmental infringement applies.  

That standard is called strict scrutiny.   

“It’s so important to have strict scrutiny for things like privacy and bodily autonomy, things like this,” said Gerard.   

Similar to Julie Burkart, who is working to open an abortion clinic in Casper, Gerard theorized that the Wyoming Constitution may have more specific language that could be mobilized to preserve abortion access and the other rights formerly protected under substantive due process.   

Codifying abortion as a federal right in a U.S. Constitution amendment, however, “just never will pass,” said Gerard. The nation is so evenly polarized in general, the two-thirds ratification for adding amendments is hard to reach on partisan issues, he added.   

Probably Not Wyoming  

Gerard also said he doubted that the Wyoming Legislature would specifically enact constitutionally uncertain laws, like a ban on gay marriage, in order to make the current Supreme Court change its earlier and less fundamental precedents.   

But other states might.   

“I’m sure other states will start challenging that,” he said. “They could very easily enact a law in any state saying gay marriage is now illegal in our state, or contraceptives are now illegal or whatever. There are a ton of (constitutionally) unenumerated rights.”   

Procreation  

Schwartz said the right to obtain contraceptives, specifically, should be safeguarded following the court’s decision, since overturning Roe vs. Wade means some women may have difficulties obtaining abortion.   

Wyoming is slated to outlaw abortion in less than a month, but Colorado is expected to still offer the procedure.   

Schwartz clarified that he did not know if Wyoming lawmakers would push to outlaw contraceptive use or any other rights that may be relegated to the states in the event of a court challenge.   

A handful of Republican legislators on Wednesday told Cowboy State Daily they absolutely would not outlaw contraceptives; but they were split on the gay marriage issue.  

Caucus  

The Wyoming Democratic Caucus, that is, every Democratic delegate to the state’s Legislature, on Friday dispatched a general statement condemning the overturning Roe vs. Wade.   

But in an apparent reference to Thomas’ constitutional reasoning, the group also bemoaned what it saw as a deterrent to LGBTQ youth looking to settle in Wyoming. 

“(This) signals to… women and LGBTQ youth that you are not welcome here,” said the statement.   

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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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Wyoming Gun Owners’ Aaron Dorr Hails Federal Court Ruling

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

An official with a Second Amendment advocacy group is hailing a judge’s decision in the group’s favor in its lawsuit against the Wyoming secretary of state.

Aaron Dorr, policy advisor for Wyoming Gun Owners, said he was pleased that a federal court ruled as unconstitutional a state law that would have made the group disclose its donors.

“”With help from the Institute for Free Speech we won … securing a victory for the First Amendment and the Second Amendment at the same time,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “On to the primaries!”

The lawsuit stemmed from a radio ad purchased by WyGO in August 2020 that portrayed state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, who was seeking re-election, as a champion of Second Amendment rights and his primary opponent, Erin Johnson, as “pathetic” because she did not mention gun rights on her website.

The Wyoming secretary of state found the ad to be “campaign electioneering” and said as a result, WyGO would need to provide its list of campaign income and expenses in keeping with state law.

The law in question requires organizations that spend more than $500 on “electioneering communication” to report its income and expenses “related to” the communication.

WyGO sued the secretary of state’s office, claiming the law created an unconstitutional hinderance to the right to free speech.

“Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan thought he could put a muzzle on Wyoming Gun Owners as a favor to his political friends in Cheyenne,” Dorr said. “He never thought we’d drag him into federal court.”

Judge Scott Skavdahl, in his ruling Monday, agreed the debate centered on the right to engage in political speech.

Skavdahl said while the state does have an interest in knowing who is speaking about a candidate before an election, it must narrowly tailor its laws make groups only report donations made to support advertising.

Without such limits, groups such as WyGO would have to separate out donations from people who only want to support activities such as lobbying or the creation of newsletters, Skavdahl said.

“Otherwise, small incidental donors with no intention of contributing to electioneering communications will be reported, which does not support the state’s interest in knowing who is speaking before an election,” he wrote.

While the secretary of state’s office argued WyGO could be required to account for the way different donations are made and used, Skavdahl said that would be too much of a burden for the group.

“If the statute is written in such a way that organizations like WyGO are required to design specific bookkeeping systems to comply with the statute, it is not clearly written or narrowly tailored,” he wrote. “It is on the state of Wyoming to prove they have narrowly tailored the statute to meet their interests and putting the responsibility on WyGO to keep proper records does not meet that burden.”

Skavdahl also found a section of the law requiring the reporting of expenses which “relate to” campaign advertising to be unconstitutionally vague.

“By this broad phrase, nothing prevents the state of Wyoming from requiring disclosure of expenses spent on gas driving to the … radio station,” his ruling said. “A reasonable person could read the statue and have trouble deciphering what ‘relate to’ means.”

Dorr, in a video posting, said if the law had been allowed to stand, groups like Wyoming Gun Owners would not be able to share information on candidates.

“But if we let these bureaucrats muzzle us through these two tyrannical First Amendment attacks via campaign finance laws, we will lose our right to expose these people at election time,” he said. “And if that happens, it will directly begin to impact our gun rights in a very very, very negative way.”

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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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