Wyoming: House rejects by 1 vote plan to stop Municipal Court judges from serving as at-will employees of municipality; concerns judges subject to reprisal for ruling against cities

A plan to end the practice of treating Municipal Court judges in Wyoming’s biggest cities as at-will employees failed by a single vote last week 29-30 (1 excused).

Currently all Wyoming Municipal Court judges are appointed and re-appointed by mayors with the consent of local governing bodies and may be removed by the local government. As such, they effectively serve as at-will employees.

HB 89 would have made several changes to these practices for judges in first class cities (population over 4,000) in order to “remove politics from the judicial process and allow municipal judges to work without fear of reprisal for ruling against their city’s interests.”

  1. Municipal Court judges would receive set 4-year terms (reduced to 2-years by floor amendment).
  2. Municipal Court judges would no longer be subject to removal at the will of the mayor or local government officials.
  3. Municipal Court judges would still receive their initial nomination from the mayor and approval by the governing body and serve for 1 year. After that year, the judge would be subject to a yes/no retention election rather than re-appointment. If they won, they would be subject to yes/no retention votes for additional terms.