Wyoming Supreme Court
Sub Neg 17635, WY Supreme Court building exterior, people on sidewalk, 1937.jpg
Wyoming Supreme Court building, 1937. The building was remodeled in 2006. (WSA Sub Neg 17635)

The supreme court is the highest court in the state. It hears appeals from district courts and supervises other courts in the state.

The Supreme Court of Wyoming is located in Cheyenne in the Supreme Court Building and serves as the final arbiter of cases that arise under state law. Its decisions are final except for cases that involve a question of federal law.

Almost all of the cases in the supreme court are appeals from district courts. In deciding these appeals, the supreme court sets forth the definitive statements on Wyoming law which are binding upon all other courts and state agencies unless changed by legislative action.

Often the decisions of the supreme court follow the dictates of previous cases or existing statutes. Sometimes, there is no statute or previous decision of the supreme court on a particular issue, and then the court must interpret the statutes which most closely apply or extend previous decisions. When circumstances change or the existing case law appears no longer to serve the interests of justice, the supreme court may reject a decision in a previous case and apply a new rule of law. On rare occasions the supreme court will decide that a particular statute or ordnance does not meet the requirements of the U.S. Constitution or the Wyoming Constitution and declare it unconstitutional.

The supreme court exercises administrative supervision over other courts in the state and the bar. It establishes rules of practice and procedure for all courts.

There are five justices of the supreme court. The term of office is eight years. When a vacancy occurs the Judicial Nominating Commission submits a list of three nominees to the governor and the governor makes an appointment. After serving on the court for one year, the new justice stands for retention in office on a statewide ballot. If a majority votes for retention, the justice serves the remainder of the term and may run for succeeding terms.

A justice must be a lawyer with at least nine years of experience in the law and must be at least 30 years old. He or she must also be a United States citizen who has resided in Wyoming for at least three years. Justices must retire when they reach 70 years of age.

The five justices select the chief justice, who serves a two-year term and presides at meetings of the court.

Territorial Supreme Court

By the Organic Act, the Territorial Supreme Court was set up to consist of a chief justice and two associate justices, appointed by the President, with the consent of the United States Senate, for a term of four years. Any two of the justices constituted a quorum.

Duties and Powers

It was the duty of the Supreme Court, at its first session to prescribe the rules of practice for the Supreme Court and for the District Courts. Also, the Supreme Court designated forms of process and regulated the keeping of records and proceedings of the court.

Under the supervision of the chief justice or, in his absence, one of the associate justices, the clerk of the court, at the end of each term of court, made a synopsis of the different decisions reached; when the accumulated decisions of the court reached one hundred, it was the delegated duty of the court to appoint a reporter.

The Supreme Court was given the power to allow writs of error, bills of exception, and appeals. The Supreme Court justices had the power to grant writs of habeas corpus.

A quorum of the justices had the power to adjourn the court at any time deemed proper.


According to the Organic Act, each of the Supreme Court Justices was to receive an annual salary of two thousand five hundred dollars. This they received for the years 1869 and 1870, but for 1871 the amount was increased to three thousand dollars and remained at that amount through 1876. For 1877 the justices' salaries were slashed to two thousand six hundred dollars, and this was in effect through 1879. Again, in 1880, the salary of each was fixed by congress at three thousand dollars, and for the remainder of the Territorial period the justices received this amount. These salaries were paid quarter­annually at the Treasury of the United States.

Terms of Court

The Supreme Court met annually at Cheyenne, the capital of the Territory. The first term of court was held at Cheyenne on the first Monday of May, 1870. From 1871 through 1873 the court met on the first Monday in July, but the Third Territorial Assembly, meeting in the fall of 1873, changed the date for convening the court to the first Monday in March, and it remained so until the Legislative Assembly of 1882 again made a change to the first Monday in January. Two years later the Eighth Legislature (1884) fixed the date as the third Monday in January, which continued to be the day of meeting throughout the remainder of the Territorial period.

Clerk of the Court

The clerk of the court was appointed by the justices and remained in office during the pleasure of the court. He received fees (fixed by law) for his services. He took the oath of office to support the Constitution of the United States and the Organic Act of the Territory of Wyoming. It was the duty of the clerk, under the direction of the chief justice or one of the associate justices, to make a synopsis or syllabus of the decisions made during each term of the court and to have these published in Cheyenne.

Court Reporter

When the number of decisions made by the Supreme Court reached one hundred, it was the duty of the justices to appoint a reporter to prepare and publish the reports. The first volume of the Wyoming Reports covered the decisions reached from the May term of court in 1870 through the March term of 1878.[1] Volume two of the Reports included cases reviewed from the March term of 1879 through the March term of 1882.[2] The remaining cases which were tried during the Territorial period were first published in the Pacific Reporter. These were scattered through some thirty volumes of the Reporter, and in 1892 they were finally compiled and published to make the third volume of the Reports.[3]

Court Seal

The seal of the Supreme Court was the same as that of the Territory of Wyoming, but the words "Supreme Court" were substituted in lieu of "Wyoming Territory" around the vignette of the seal.

State of the Judiciary Messages

Justices of the Wyoming Territorial Supreme Court

Name (Political Affiliation)

Service Began

Service Ended

Chief Justice
John H. Howe (R)

April 6, 1869

October 14, 1871

April 6, 1869 - October 14, 1871
William T. Jones (R)

April 6, 1869

February 8, 1871

John W. Kingman (R)

April 6, 1869

March 20, 1873

Joseph W. Fisher (R)

February 8, 1871

December 18, 1879

October 14, 1871 - December 18, 1879
Joseph M. Carey (R)

January 18, 1872

February 14, 1876

E.A. Thomas (R)

March 20, 1873

December 14, 1877

Jacob B. Blair (R)

February 14, 1876

April 23, 1888

William Ware Peck (R)

December 14, 1877

January 11, 1882

James B. Sener (R)

December 18, 1879

July 5, 1884

December 18, 1879 - July 5, 1884
Samuel C. Parks (R)

January 11, 1882

April 14, 1886

J.C. Perry [4]


John W. Lacey (R)

July 5, 1884

November 8, 1886

July 5, 1884 - November 8, 1886
Samuel T. Corn (D)

April 14, 1886

June 21, 1890

William L. Maginnis (D)

November 8, 1886

October 1, 1889

November 8, 1886 - October 1, 1889
Micah C. Saufley (D)

April 23, 1888

October 11, 1890

Willis Van Devanter (R) [5]

October 1, 1889

October 11, 1890

October 1, 1889 - October 11, 1890
Asbury B. Conaway (R) [6]

June 21, 1890

October 11, 1890

Justices of the Wyoming State Supreme Court


Service Began

Service Ended

Chief Justice
Willis Van Devanter

October 1, 1889

October 15, 1890

Asbury B. Conaway

June 21, 1890

December 8, 1897

Herman V.S. Groesbeck

October 11, 1890

January 4, 1897

Homer Merrell

November 24, 1890

January 2, 1893

Gibson Clark

January 2, 1893

September 22, 1894

Samuel T. Corn

September 22, 1894

January 7, 1895

Charles N. Potter

January 7, 1895

December 20, 1927

Samuel T. Corn

January 4, 1897

January 2, 1905

Jesse Knight

December 18, 1897

April 9, 1905

Cyrus Beard

January 2, 1905

December 16, 1920

Josiah A. Van Orsdel

April 15, 1905

January 31, 1906

Richard H. Scott

February 24, 1906

September 26, 1917

Charles E. Blydenburgh

November 1, 1907

April 17, 1921

Ralph Kimball

January 3, 1921

January 1, 1945

Fred H. Blume

April 23, 1921

January 1, 1963

William A. Riner

January 10, 1928

November 20, 1955

Henry P. Ilsley

January 7, 1952

February 18, 1953

Harry Harnsberger

March 12, 1953

January 1, 1969

Glenn Parker

December 5, 1955

January 6, 1975

John J. McIntyre

January 2, 1961

November 30, 1974

Norman B. Gray

January 7, 1963

December 31, 1971

Leonard McEwan

January 6, 1969

January 21, 1975

Rodney M. Guthrie

January 1, 1972

December 31, 1978

Archie G. McClintock

July 1, 1973

March 26, 1981

John F. Raper

December 18, 1974

June 14, 1983

Richard V. Thomas

December 30, 1974


Robert R. Rose, Jr.

March 15, 1975

November 1, 1985

John J. Rooney

January 1, 1979

November 30, 1985

C. Stewart Brown

March 26, 1981

June 30, 1988

G. Joseph Cardine

June 14, 1983

July 1994[8]

Walter C. Urbigkit, Jr.

November 1, 1985


Richard J. Macy

December 2, 1985

June 2, 2000[10]

Michael Golden

June 30, 1988

October 15, 2012[11]

William A. Taylor

January 22, 1993


Larry Lehman

July 8, 1994

2004 [13]

William U. Hill

November 3, 1998


Marilyn Stebner Kite [14]

March 30, 2000

August 3, 2015

Barton Voigt

March 21, 2001

January 6, 2014[15]

E. James Burke

January 2005


Michael K. Davis

August 30, 2012


Kate M. Fox

January 2014


Keith G. Kautz

August 2015


Lynne Boomgaarden

March 2018


Additional Resources

  1. ^ E.A. Thomas complied Volume I of the Wyoming Reports. This volume as printed in 1878 and contained 84 cases. This volume as paid for entirely by the Territory of Wyoming.
  2. ^ John A. Riner compiled Volume II of the Wyoming Reports. This volume was printed in 1882 and contained 49 cases, including 4 cases omitted in Volume I. This volume was financed through a cooperation of the Territory and the United States Government. Congress appropriated one thousand dollars to which the Territory of Wyoming added four hundred dollars.
  3. ^ Volume III was edited by the editorial staff of the National Reporter System and contained 57 cases determined by the Territorial Supreme Court.
  4. ^ Justice J.C. Perry was appointed and confirmed Chief Justice of the Territory of Wyoming in 1884, but died at his home in Brooklyn, New York, on the day he was to leave for the Territory -- April 14, 1884.
  5. ^ Term continued into the State Supreme Court, being elected September 11, 1890.
  6. ^ Term continued into the State Supreme Court, being elected September 11, 1890.
  7. ^ Retired
  8. ^ Retired
  9. ^ Lost retention election in November 1992.
  10. ^ Retired
  11. ^ Retired
  12. ^ Retired
  13. ^ Retired shortly before his death on December 10, 2004.
  14. ^ Justice Marilyn S. Kite became the first female justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court on June 2, 2000 and the first female chief justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court on July 1, 2010, serving until July 1, 2014.
  15. ^ Retired