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The Judicial Branch of Wyoming State Government is made up of the courts in the state. This branch is tasked with the interpretation and application of the laws of the state.
Albany County courtroom, 1886 (WSA Sub Neg 22065)
Territorial Judicial Branch 1869-1890
Prior to the creation of Wyoming Territory, while this region was yet a part of Dakota Territory and under the jurisdiction thereof, the interpretation of the l aw and its enforcement were far from satisfactory. This circumstance was largely due to the great distance lying between Yankton, then capital of Dakota, and the line of population in what is now Wyoming. The coming of the rail road caused an influx of transients, many of whom were most undesirable characters. Crime spread rapidly. The weak judicial set up being unable to cope with the situation, "Judge Lynch" took command. There fore, without legal authority, a temporary government was set up in Cheyenne with a "police" court to try all cases not exceeding two thousand dollars, and a "superior" court to handle cases involving sums greater than th is amount. These courts represented the first attempt at the arduous task of maintaining order in this newly settled country and they succeeded to a surprising degree.
In December of 1867 the Dakota Legislative Assembly convened and mapped out this vast territory into two new counties, Laramie and Carter, to be under the jurisdiction of the second judicial district. A term of court was ordered to be held annually at Cheyenne. The following year Albany and Carbon Counties were defined and placed in the second judicial district with a term of court to be held at Laramie each year.
On July 25, 1868, President Johnson approved the Organic Act of the Territory of Wyoming. According to this Act the judicial power was vested in a supreme court, district courts, probate courts, and justices of the peace. Because of the bitter fight then taking place between the President and Congress the new Territory was not organized until the following April and May. (The last of the Supreme Court Justices was sworn in on May 19, 1869.)
For the time being, until the legislative body of Wyoming Territory should repeal them, the laws of Dakota Territory (except those pertaining to mining) were to remain in effect. Accordingly, the Dakota laws were repealed by the First Legislative Assembly of Wyoming Territory, December 10, 1869, and the new set of laws became effective on January 1, 1870.
Wyoming Legal Fun Facts
1st lawyers in Wyoming:
Several are known to have crossed Wyoming on the Oregon Trail.
1st meeting of the Wyoming State Bar:
The organizational meeting was held Jan. 28, 1915, in the U. S. District Courtroom, Cheyenne
1st president of the Wyoming State Bar:
C. P. Arnold of Laramie
1st woman admitted to law practice in Wyoming:
Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard of Laramie was admitted on Dec. 22, 1914. (She had been admitted to practice before the district court in Laramie on Nov. 18, 1898). The first woman to actually practice law in Wyoming was Mrs. Grace McDonald Phillips, Newcastle/Casper, who was admitted to the bar on April 19, 1920. She held a law degree from the University of Washington.
1st woman to argue a case before the Wyoming Supreme Court:
Laura Bicknell Harris of Casper in 1927.
1st law school in Wyoming:
University of Wyoming College of Law, first classes conducted in September 1920.
1st University of Wyoming College of Law graduate named to a district judgeship:
Glenn Parker in 1949.
1st UW law graduate named to State Supreme Court:
Glenn Parker, 1955.
1st woman appointed to the Wyoming Supreme Court:
Marilyn Stebner Kite, (b. Laramie), appointed in March, 2000.
1st woman to serve as Chief Justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court:
Marilyn Stebner Kite, (b. Laramie), served 2010-2014
Youngest person in the United States to serve as a district judge:
Percy W. Metz was 29 years old when he was elected district judge in the Big Horn Basin in 1913. Five years earlier, he set the mark for becoming the youngest county attorney in the country at the age of 24. He died at the age of 80 in 1964.
1st law school club established:
Potter Law Club formed by Thurman Arnold, 1922.
1st county court judges in Wyoming:
After the law was passed establishing county courts in 1979, Franklin Mockler and Robert W. Allen were appointed in Laramie County; Stephen Davidson and Michael J. Krampner were appointed in Natrona County.
1st siblings to sit on the Wyoming Supreme Court:
Hon. Marilyn Stebner Kite and Hon. Ken Stebner, 2004. Hon. Kite was a member of the the Wyoming Supreme Court and Hon. Stebner was nominated to to fill in for three cases.
Legal Firsts in Wyoming
Significant Wyoming Court Cases
"Wyoming:The Territorial and District Courts"
by Rebecca E. Thomson, reprinted from
Annals of Wyoming
Vol 55. (accessed September 2015)
"Brother, sister sit on Wyoming Supreme Court,"
Casper Star Tribune, March 29, 2004. (accessed March 2017)
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