Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Summary 2007 WY 74

Summary of Decision issued May 9, 2007

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. You will also note that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote, the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Hicks and Pronghorn Publishing, Board of Trustees of the Scenic Preserve Trust v. Dowd and Dowd; Board of Johnson County Commissioners

Citation: 2007 WY 74

Docket Number: 06-2

Representing Appellants (Plaintiffs): Dennis M. Kirven of Kirven and Kirven, PC, Buffalo, Wyoming.

Representing Appellees (Defendants Fred L. and Linda S. Dowd): Tom C. Toner of Yonkee & Toner, LLP, Sheridan, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee Board of Johnson County Commissioners: Greg L. Goddard, Deputy County Attorney, Buffalo, Wyoming.

Issue: Appellants presented 6 issues but the Court focused on the issue of standing: Whether Plaintiffs had standing to enforce the Scenic Preserve Trust.

Facts/Discussion: The case arose from a conservation easement established in 1993 on Meadowood Ranch in Johnson County.
Standing to enforce a charitable trust: The district court found the Scenic Preserve Trust (Trust) was a charitable trust. The Court agreed and after a review of the case concluded the action was one seeking to enforce the terms of the Trust. After discussing the common law of trusts, the Uniform Trust Code, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 4-10-110(d) and § 4-10-406(c), the Court concluded that a charitable trust may be enforced by a settler, the attorney general or a qualified beneficiary of the trust. Appellants’ only benefit from enforcement was that shared by other members of the public so they were not qualified beneficiaries and therefore lacked standing to enforce the terms of the Trust.
The Attorney General’s role: At the time the Attorney General declined to participate in the case, the district court had already ruled that Appellants had standing to pursue the action. Given that ruling, it was understandable the Attorney General allowed the private litigants to pursue the litigation. Given the Court’s holding that Appellants did not have standing, the Attorney General now has the opportunity to reassess his position.
Matters of great public interest and importance: Appellants’ arguments were not meaningfully developed. The “great public interest or importance” exception must be applied with caution where strict standards are applied. In the instant case, the Court concluded it did not qualify.
Public meetings law: Assuming that Appellants had standing to pursue the issue, they did not provide authority to support their position that the Trust was a subagency of the Board. The Board took its actions at a regularly scheduled public meeting, and the Court agreed with the district court that no violation of the public meetings law occurred.

Holding: The Court concluded the instant action was one to enforce the Scenic Preserve Trust. Appellants did not meet the definition of “qualified beneficiary” and therefore lacked standing to enforce the terms of the Trust.


J. Hill delivered the decision.

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