Friday, May 17, 2013

Summary 2013 WY 61

Summary of Decision May 17, 2013

Justice Davis delivered the opinion for the Court. Remanded.

Case Name: PAUL ROCK, DARI QUIRK & ERNEST KAWA v. MARY LANKFORD, in her official capacity as Sublette County Clerk.

MARY LANKFORD, in her official capacity as Sublette County Clerk v. PAUL ROCK, DARI QUIRK & ERNEST KAWA

Docket Number: S-12-0216; S-12-0217


Appeal from the District Court of Sublette County, the Honorable Dennis L. Sanderson, Judge

Representing Paul Rock, Dari Quirk, and Ernest Kawa: Sky D. Phifer, Phifer Law Office, Lander, Wyoming.

Representing Mary Lankford, in her official capacity as Sublette County Clerk: Neal R. Stelting, Sublette County and Prosecuting Attorney, Pinedale, Wyoming.

Date of Decision: May 17, 2013

Facts: In August of 2011, the voters of Sublette County approved a ballot proposition increasing the size of the county commission from three to five. Before the proposed change could be implemented in the primary and general elections to be held in 2012, a second ballot proposition reducing the size of the commission from five back to three was submitted to the voters in May of 2012. The proposition passed, and Sublette County Clerk Mary Lankford determined that the second proposition returned the size of the commission to three, and therefore held an election for the one commission seat which would have been open if there had been no ballot propositions.

Appellants Rock, Quirk, and Kawa challenged Lankford’s decision, claiming that the additional seats permitted by the August 2011 ballot proposition could not be eliminated until they were filled, and that the May 2012 special election decreasing the number of seats was improper and void. Lankford disagreed with Appellants’ interpretation of the applicable statutes, and she moved to dismiss the complaint because it was untimely and brought by an insufficient number of electors under statutes governing ballot proposition contests. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, but agreed with Lankford that the May 2012 election was proper, and granted her summary judgment.

The case came to the Supreme Court as two separate appeals. Appellants Rock, Quirk, and Kawa challenged the district court’s decision as to the interpretation of the statute governing increases and decreases in county commissions in Case No. S-12-0216. Lankford appealed the district court’s decision denying her motion to dismiss in Case No. S-12-0217, and raised the same issue as an alternative ground for affirmance in Case No. S-12-0216.

Issues: 1. Did Appellants’ claim amount to an election contest of a May 2012 ballot proposition under Wyoming Statutes § 22-17-105?

2. If so, did Appellants meet the requirements to maintain a ballot contest pursuant to the above statute so that the district court had jurisdiction over the dispute?

Holdings: The Court found that Appellants’ claims are an election contest, that they were not timely filed or brought by a sufficient number of electors, and that the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider the claims. Although the Court’s decision upholds the 2012 election as did that of the district court, the Court found the district court’s decision to be void and remanded for dismissal.

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

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