Joint Judiciary Committee

Members of the Joint Judiciary Committee have agreed to ask permission to study the workload of District Judges in Laramie County. The decision comes after preliminary data was presented by the Wyoming Administrative Office of the Courts and district judges testified at a recent committee meeting. They say that they and other judges like them in the state are overworked and that it’s slowing down their ability to hear cases. They say civil cases often take the worst hit – making the wait time for a civil trial a year or longer.

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The Wyoming Legislature is looking at reforming civil asset forfeiture laws.

Asset forfeiture is when law enforcement takes and keeps property like cash, guns, and cars it believes to be associated with drug crimes. In Wyoming, the law doesn’t require a charge or conviction to seize and hold property, nor does it require the police to actually find drugs. To get the property back, owners have to go to court and prove that it was not tied to a drug crime.

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Judges and attorneys are concerned about how to prosecute possession of edible marijuana products in Wyoming. Under current law, the entire edible, like a cookie or a lollipop is weighed and those in possession of more than three ounces of any marijuana-infused product can be charged with a felony

The Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee is tackling the issue over several meetings after hearing concerns during the last legislative session. Senator Leland Christensen chairs that committee and says the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act is too vague on edibles.

Wyoming’s Joint Judiciary Legislative Committee has voted to support a bill that would allow for execution by firing squad, but voted down an attempt to abolish the death penalty altogether. 

States nationwide are being forced to find alternatives to executions now that drugs for lethal injections are hard to come by. Abolishing the death penalty altogether generated considerable debate. Baggs Senator Larry Hicks says the death penalty provides justice for victims. 

But Laramie Representative Cathy Connolly says the issue is greater than that.

The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee will consider a bill next week in Laramie that could end up abolishing the state’s death penalty law. 

Currently states are having difficulty acquiring the chemicals to perform lethal injections, so the Judiciary Committee has been looking at other alternatives…including firing squads. But House Committee Chairman Keith Gingery says another alternative is to abolish the death penalty.

Department of Corrections Director Bob Lampert is asking lawmakers to support some proposed prison reforms.  He told the Joint Judiciary Committee that  Wyoming has one of the most successful correction systems in the nation in terms of its rate of return to prison.