Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court
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The case revolves around Gracie and Jeff Richardson, the legal guardians of their adult son, JMR, who suffers from severe developmental and intellectual disabilities. JMR requires full-time care and receives the highest level of Medicaid benefits offered through the Home and Community Based Services Waiver Program (HCBS Program) administered by the Wyoming Department of Health. The HCBS Program offers numerous services to participants like JMR to meet their individually assessed needs. In 2017, the Department entered into a settlement agreement with the Richardsons to establish an individual plan of care for JMR that permitted him to spend his individual budget amount on adult day services, residential habilitation services (community living services), and respite services.In 2021, the Department reviewed JMR’s individual plan of care pursuant to a quality improvement review. The Department discovered JMR’s providers had been billing for respite services at the same time JMR had been receiving community living services. Under the Department’s Comprehensive and Supports Waiver Service Index (the Index), providers are not authorized to bill for both the daily rate of community living services and the fifteen-minute units of respite services. The Department, relying on the Index, notified the Richardsons that it was required to remove respite services from JMR’s individual plan of care. The Richardsons requested an administrative hearing, which upheld the Department’s decision. The Richardsons appealed to the district court, which affirmed the decision. The Richardsons then appealed to the Supreme Court of Wyoming.The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that the Department acted in accordance with law when it removed respite services from JMR’s individual plan of care. The court held that the Index, which was incorporated by reference in the Department’s Medicaid regulations, constituted a rule with the force and effect of law. The court also found that the Department’s quality improvement review, which was used to identify the billing deemed erroneous under the Index, was not considered a “rule” under the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act and therefore did not require the rulemaking process before implementation. Finally, the court concluded that the Department’s removal of respite services from JMR’s individual plan of care did not violate the parties’ 2017 Settlement Agreement. View "Richardson v. State of Wyoming, Ex Rel. Wyoming Department of Health" on Justia Law

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In a case certified by the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming, the Supreme Court of Wyoming was tasked with two questions regarding the duty of care owed by law enforcement officers to suspects while conducting an investigation.The first question asked whether a law enforcement officer acting within the scope of their duties owed a duty of care to the suspect(s) in a criminal investigation to conduct that investigation in a non-negligent manner. The court affirmed that law enforcement officers indeed owe such a duty, consistent with existing precedent.The second question asked whether, if a duty of care is owed, the law enforcement officer is entitled to assert qualified immunity under Wyoming law. The court affirmed that law enforcement officers are entitled to assert qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects officers who act in good faith and whose actions are reasonable under the circumstances, and it serves important policy purposes, such as protecting law enforcement from the risk of being liable for mistakes made in the performance of their duties.The specific facts of the case involved a law enforcement officer who had received a tip about a suspected marijuana growing operation and subsequently initiated an investigation. The suspect, Deborah Palm-Egle, later filed a civil action against the officer and other parties, alleging a variety of tort claims. View "Palm-Egle v. Briggs" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between the Teton County Assessor and Aspen S, LLC along with the Kelvin and Nancy Stirn Trusts. The landowners in Teton County contested the reclassification of their property from "agricultural" to "non-agricultural" by the Teton County Assessor. The Teton County Board of Equalization held a contested case hearing and found that the County Assessor's removal of the agricultural classification was incorrect. The County Assessor then appealed this decision to the State Board of Equalization.The State Board of Equalization consolidated the cases and sided with the County Assessor, stating that the County Board of Equalization had rejected the Assessor's determination without sufficient explanation. However, the State Board also assessed all the evidence independently and found that the taxpayers had not met their burden of proof. The landowners then sought judicial review of the agency's action in the district court, a portion of whose decision was adverse to the Teton County Assessor who now seeks further judicial review in the Supreme Court of Wyoming.The Supreme Court of Wyoming reversed and remanded the case, finding that the County Board of Equalization's decision lacked necessary findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act (WAPA). This lack of necessary findings and conclusions rendered the record insufficient for judicial review, causing the County Board of Equalization to act arbitrarily and capriciously. The case was remanded to the district court, with instructions to remand to the State Board of Equalization, which was instructed to remand to the Teton County Board of Equalization for findings and conclusions as required by WAPA. View "Teton County Assessor v. Aspen S, Llc" on Justia Law

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In Wyoming, Jerry Peterson brought a case against the Laramie City Council, alleging that the council violated the Wyoming Public Meetings Act by holding its meetings remotely during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Peterson argued that this remote format presented a barrier to attendance at the council meetings, violating a section of the Act that states a member of the public should not be required to fulfill any condition precedent to their attendance. The District Court dismissed the case on the grounds of laches, asserting that Peterson had delayed unreasonably in filing the suit. However, the Supreme Court of Wyoming reversed this decision and remanded the case back to the lower court. The Supreme Court found that the District Court had incorrectly determined Peterson's claims all accrued at the same time and that it had improperly taken judicial notice of the City Council's evidence. The Supreme Court also concluded that the District Court had made an erroneous conclusory determination that the City Council would be prejudiced by Peterson’s delay in bringing his action. View "Peterson v. Laramie City Council" on Justia Law

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In this case, the appellant, Bjay Nagel, who was employed as a caretaker by Sand Creek Country Club, broke his ankle while working. He had been drinking alcohol prior to the accident. The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division initially awarded benefits but later denied further benefits after discovering that Nagel was intoxicated at the time of his injury. The Wyoming Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upheld the Division's denial of benefits, finding that Nagel's intoxication was a substantial factor causing his injury. Nagel appealed the decision, claiming that the OAH's decision was contrary to substantial evidence, arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the decision of the lower court. The Court found that there was substantial evidence supporting the OAH's decision that Nagel's intoxication was a substantial factor causing his injury. The Court also found that the decision was not arbitrary or capricious because there was a rational basis for it, and the decision was in accordance with the law. Nagel's intoxication at the time of his injury was established by a blood alcohol content test which showed a level of .183%. Furthermore, an expert opinion was provided which stated that it was more likely than not that Nagel's intoxication was a substantial factor causing his injury. View "Nagel v. State of Wyoming, Ex Rel. Department of Workforce Services" on Justia Law

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In this case, the City of Laramie, Wyoming, sued the University of Wyoming and its Board of Trustees, challenging the drilling and operation of certain water wells. The city argued that the university was in violation of a 1965 deed covenant prohibiting the drilling of one of the wells and was also in violation of a city ordinance. The city also claimed that legislation exempting the university from this city ordinance was unconstitutional. The district court dismissed some of the city's claims and granted summary judgment in favor of the university on the remaining claims. The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the lower court's decision. The court held that the university was protected by sovereign immunity from the city's attempts to enforce the deed covenant. It also held that the state law exempting the university from the city ordinance was constitutional. The court further noted that the law precluded the city from enforcing its ordinance against the university. View "City of Laramie, Wyoming v. University of Wyoming" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Supreme Court, State of Wyoming, the Petitioners, Kenneth Carson and Anna Leigh Anderson, parents of two children living in a remote family ranch in Wyoming, sought to compel the Albany County School District Board of Trustees, the Superintendent of Schools for Albany County, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Wyoming (collectively, Respondents) to establish a rural school, named "The Buckle School," on their ranch. The proposal for this school was initially approved by the Albany County School District Board of Trustees and the Director of the State Construction Department. However, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction later denied the approval, citing the cost-effectiveness of the proposed school and the availability of virtual education options for the children.The Petitioners then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the district court, which was dismissed. Upon appeal, the Supreme Court, State of Wyoming, affirmed the lower court's decision. The court held that the Petitioners failed to demonstrate that the Respondents had a ministerial duty to form the school. A ministerial duty is a duty that is absolute, clear, and indisputable, involving merely execution of a specific duty arising from fixed and designated facts. The court found that the relevant statutes provided the Respondents with discretionary judgment, not a ministerial duty to approve or deny the formation of a rural school. The court further noted that the Petitioners had not shown that they had requested or were denied any transportation or maintenance payments, which the relevant statutes provide for in lieu of establishing a school. Therefore, the court concluded that the Petitioners had failed to state a claim upon which mandamus relief could be granted. View "Carson v. Albany County School District #1 Board of Trustees" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Leopoldo Alvarado, who sought to terminate his duty to register as a sex offender after having registered for at least ten years, pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-19-304 of the Wyoming Sex Offender Registration Act. The District Court denied his petition on the grounds that the time he spent on probation did not count toward the ten-year statutory prerequisite.However, the Supreme Court of the State of Wyoming disagreed and reversed the decision of the District Court. The Supreme Court found that the clear and unambiguous language of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-19-304 does not require probation to be completed before the ten-year registration period begins to run. The court ruled that probation is not listed as a tolling event, and the court will not read words into a statute when the legislature has chosen not to include them.The Supreme Court stated that the District Court should have considered whether Mr. Alvarado should be relieved of the duty to continue registration after demonstrating he had maintained a clean record by meeting all four conditions during the ten-year registration period. These conditions included having no conviction of any offense for which imprisonment for more than one year may be imposed, having no conviction of any sex offense, successfully completing any periods of supervised release, probation, and parole, and successfully completing any sex offender treatment previously ordered by the trial court or his probation or parole agent. The case was remanded for further consideration. View "Alvarado v. State" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over the tax assessments of 115 vacant lots in the Sunup Ridge subdivision in Converse County, Wyoming, owned by Jan Gray. Gray appealed the Converse County Board of Equalization’s decisions upholding the Converse County Assessor’s tax assessments for the years 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020. He contended that the County Assessor failed to physically inspect each lot as required by law, and that the tax assessments were not supported by substantial evidence. Additionally, he argued that the County Board did not provide an adequate record on appeal and that he was denied an opportunity for proper discovery.The Supreme Court of Wyoming upheld the County Board's decisions. The court found that the County Assessor had complied with the requirement to physically inspect the properties, and that the tax assessments were supported by substantial evidence. Furthermore, the court determined that the County Board had provided an adequate record for appeal and that Gray had not been denied an opportunity for discovery. Therefore, the court affirmed the County Board's tax assessments for the years in question. View "Jan Charles Gray v. Converse County Assessor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Equalization affirming the Wyoming Departments of Audit and Revenue's mineral tax audit assessments of Chesapeake Operating, LLC's oil and gas production, holding that the State Board of Equalization did not misinterpret Wyo. Stat. Ann. 39-14-203(b)(iv) when it found that Chesapeake's field facilities did not qualify as processing facilities.On appeal, Chesapeake argued that the Board erred in concluding that Chesapeake's facilities qualified as processing facilities under the mineral tax statutes and that the proper point of valuation for its gas production was at the custody transfer meters. The district court certified the case directly to the Supreme Court, which affirmed, holding that the Board correctly interpreted and applied Wyo. Stat. Ann. 39-14-201(a)(xviii) when it found that the seven facilities at issue were not processing facilities. View "Chesapeake Operating, LLC v. State, Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law