LARAMIE – The Wyoming Supreme Court has thrown out a ruling by Albany County District Court Judge Tori Kricken, who determined in November that, contrary to common understanding, state law does not prevent local governments from regulating guns – so long as those guns are manufactured outside of Wyoming.
The case arose from the prosecution of Lyle Williams, a Uinta County man who was charged with trespassing in 2018 after violating a University of Wyoming regulation by open-carrying a gun at the UW Conference Center during the annual Wyoming Republican Party State Convention.
Since the trespassing charge was merely a misdemeanor, Williams was charged in Albany County’s circuit court.
Williams’ attorney, Jason Tangeman, filed for a declaratory judgment on the matter in Kricken’s court, leading to the November decision that upended the common understanding of Wyoming’s gun laws.
But on Wednesday morning, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled 3-2 that Kricken had overstepped her authority by even making a ruling in the case.
Justice Kate Fox wrote the prevailing opinion, with Justices Kari Gray and Lynne Boomgaarden joining her.
It should have been Kricken’s upstairs neighbor in the courthouse, Circuit Court Judge Robert Castor, to decide – as part of Williams’ prosecution – whether UW’s gun regulations violate state law, the majority wrote.
The Supreme Court has remanded the case back to Kricken with instructions for the judge to dismiss the case.
Williams’ prosecution had been put on hold amid the proceedings that began in Kricken’s court.
Assuming the Albany County Attorney’s Office continues with Williams’ prosecution, Wednesday’s decision could merely delay the high court from having to make a second decision in the case.
The same legal arguments made before Kricken can now be repeated in Castor’s court, with the losing party then appealing that decision to the Supreme Court.
Both Chief Justice Michael Davis and Justice Keith Kautz dissented.
In an opinion written by Kautz, the pair said the majority ruling “places an undue burden on the county prosecutor in the trespass case by requiring that office to represent and defend the interests of the University Board of Trustees.”
“I cannot agree that the majority’s decision promotes judicial economy or demonstrates necessary judicial restraint,” Kautz wrote. “It simply avoids the primary issue and forces additional unnecessary litigation. This Court should consider Mr. Williams’ claims on their merits at some point. I see no reason that should not happen now.”