Article 5, Wyoming Constitution

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Article 5 of the Wyoming Constitution is entitled Judicial Department and consists of 29 sections.

Section 1

Text of Section 1:

How Judicial Power Vested

The judicial power of the state shall be vested in the senate, sitting as a court of impeachment, in a supreme court, district courts, and such subordinate courts as the legislature may, by general law, establish and ordain from time to time.[1]

This section was amended by a resolution adopted by the 1965 legislature, ratified by a vote of the people at the general election held on November 8, 1966, and proclaimed in effect on January 17, 1967.

Section 2

Text of Section 2:

Supreme Court Generally; Appellate Jurisdiction

The supreme court shall have general appellate jurisdiction, co-extensive with the state, in both civil and criminal causes, and shall have a general superintending control over all inferior courts, under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by law.[1]

Section 3

Text of Section 3:

Supreme Court Generally; Original Jurisdiction

The supreme court shall have original jurisdiction in quo warranto and mandamus as to all state officers, and in habeas corpus. The supreme court shall also have power to issue writs of mandamus, review, prohibition, habeas corpus, certiorari, and other writs necessary and proper to the complete exercise of its appellate and revisory jurisdiction. Each of the judges shall have power to issue writs of habeas corpus to any part of the state upon petition by or on behalf of a person held in actual custody, and may make such writs returnable before himself or before the supreme court, or before any district court of the state or any judge thereof.[1]

Section 4

Text of Section 4:

Supreme Court Generally; Number; Election of Chief Justice; Quorum; Vacancies in Supreme Court or District Court; Judicial Nominating Commission; Terms; Standing for Retention in Office

(a) The supreme court of the state shall consist of not less than three nor more than five justices as may be determined by the legislature. The justices of the court shall elect one of their number to serve as chief justice for such term and with such authority as shall be prescribed by law. A majority of the justices shall constitute a quorum, and a concurrence of a majority of such quorum shall be sufficient to decide any matter. If a justice of the supreme court for any reason shall not participate in hearing any matter, the chief justice may designate one of the district judges to act for such nonparticipating justice.

(b) A vacancy in the office of justice of the supreme court or judge of any district court or of such other courts that may be made subject to this provision by law, shall be filled by a qualified person appointed by the governor from a list of three nominees that shall be submitted by the judicial nominating commission. The commission shall submit such a list not later than 60 days after the death, retirement, tender of resignation, removal, failure of an incumbent to file a declaration of candidacy or certification of a negative majority vote on the question of retention in office under section [subsection] (g) hereof. If the governor shall fail to make any such appointment within 30 days from the day the list is submitted to him, such appointment shall be made by the chief justice from the list within 15 days.

(c) There shall be a judicial nominating commission for the supreme court, district courts and any other courts to which these provisions may be extended by law. The commission shall consist of seven members, one of whom shall be the chief justice, or a justice of the supreme court designated by the chief justice to act for him, who shall be chairman thereof. In addition to the chief justice, or his designee, three resident members of the bar engaged in active practice shall be elected by the Wyoming state bar and three electors of the state not admitted to practice law shall be appointed by the governor to serve on said commission for such staggered terms as shall be prescribed by law. No more than two members of said commission who are residents of the same judicial district may qualify to serve any term or part of a term on the commission. In the case of courts having less than statewide authority, each judicial district not otherwise represented by a member on the commission, and each county, should the provisions hereof be extended by law to courts of lesser jurisdiction than district courts, shall be represented by two nonvoting advisors to the commission when an appointment to a court in such unrepresented district, or county, is pending; both of such advisors shall be residents of the district, or county, and one shall be a member of the bar appointed by the governing body of the Wyoming state bar and one shall be a nonattorney advisor appointed by the governor.

(d) No member of the commission excepting the chairman shall hold any federal, state or county public office or any political party office, and after serving a full term he shall not be eligible for reelection or reappointment to succeed himself on the commission. No member of the judicial nominating commission shall be eligible for appointment to any judicial office while he is a member of the commission nor for a period of one year after the expiration of his term for which he was elected or appointed. Vacancies in the office of commissioner shall be filled for the unexpired terms in the same manner as the original appointments. Additional qualifications of members of the commission may be prescribed by law.

(e) The chairman of the commission shall cast votes only in the event of ties. The commission shall operate under rules adopted by the supreme court. Members of the commission shall be entitled to no compensation other than expenses incurred for travel and subsistence while attending meetings of the commission.

(f) The terms of supreme court justices shall be eight years and the terms of district court judges shall be six years.

(g) Each justice or judge selected under these provisions shall serve for one year after his appointment and until the first Monday in January following the next general election after the expiration of such year. He shall, at such general election, stand for retention in office on a ballot which shall submit to the appropriate electorate the question whether such justice or judge shall be retained in office for another term or part of a term, and upon filing a declaration of candidacy in the form and at the times prescribed by law, he shall, at the general election next held before the expiration of each term, stand for retention on such ballots. The electorate of the whole state shall vote on the question of retention or rejection of justices of the supreme court, and any other statewide court; the electorate of the several judicial districts shall vote on the question of retention or rejection of judges of their respective districts, and the electorate of such other subdivisions of the state as shall be prescribed by law shall vote on the question of retention or rejection of any other judges to which these provisions may be extended.

(h) A justice or judge selected hereunder, or one that is in office upon the effective date of this amendment, who shall desire to retain his judicial office a succeeding term, following the expiration of his existing term of office, shall file with the appropriate office not more than 6 months nor less than 3 months before the general election to be held before the expiration of his existing term of office a declaration of intent to stand for election for a succeeding term. When such a declaration of intent is filed, the appropriate electorate shall vote upon a nonpartisan judicial ballot on the question of retention in or rejection from office of such justice or judge, and if a majority of those voting on the question vote affirmatively, the justice or judge shall be elected to serve the succeeding term prescribed by law. If a justice or judge fails to file such a declaration within the time specified, or if a majority of those voting on the question vote negatively to any judicial candidacy, a vacancy will thereby be created in that office at the end of its existing term.[1]

This section was amended by a resolution adopted by the 1957 legislature, ratified by a vote of the people at the general election held on November 4, 1958, and proclaimed in effect on December 10, 1958.

This section was amended again by a resolution adopted by the 1971 legislature, ratified by a vote of the people at the general election held on November 7, 1972, and proclaimed in effect on December 12, 1972.

This section was further amended by a resolution adopted by the 1975 legislature, ratified by a vote of the people at the general election held on November 2, 1976, and proclaimed in effect on November 23, 1976.

Section 5

Text of Section 5:

Voluntary Retirement and Compensation of Justices and Judges

Subject to the further provisions of this section, the legislature shall provide for the voluntary retirement and compensation of justices and judges of the supreme court and district courts, and may do so for any other courts, on account of length of service, age and disability, and for their reassignment to active duty where and when needed. The office of every such justice and judge shall become vacant when the incumbent reaches the age of seventy (70) years, as the legislature may prescribe; but, in the case of an incumbent whose term of office includes the effective date of this amendment, this provision shall not prevent him from serving the remainder of said term nor be applicable to him before his period or periods of judicial service shall have reached a total of six (6) years. The legislature may also provide for benefits for dependents of justices and judges.[1]

This section was amended by a resolution adopted by the 1971 legislature, ratified by a vote of the people at the general election held on November 7, 1972, and proclaimed in effect on December 12, 1972.

Section 6

Text of Section 6:

Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics

(a) There is hereby created the Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics. The commission shall have twelve (12) members who reside in Wyoming consisting of:

(i) Three (3) active Wyoming judges, who are not members of the supreme court, elected by the full-time, active Wyoming judges;

(ii) Three (3) members of the Wyoming state bar, appointed by its governing body; and

(iii) Six (6) electors of the state, who are not active or retired judges or attorneys, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate.


(b) All terms shall be for three (3) years duration. Members shall be eligible for reappointment to a second term.


(c) The commission shall divide itself into investigatory and adjudicatory panels for each case considered. No commission member may serve on an adjudicatory panel in any case in which that member served in an investigatory capacity.


(d) The commission, or a panel thereof, shall consider complaints of judicial misconduct made against judicial officers and, to the extent permitted and as provided for by the code of judicial conduct, may:

(i) Discipline a judicial officer; or

(ii) Recommend discipline of a judicial officer to the supreme court or a special supreme court.


(e) The supreme court shall adopt a code of judicial conduct applicable to all judicial officers and adopt rules governing:

(i) The election of judges to the commission;

(ii) The staggering of terms, and the removal and filling of vacancies of commission members;

(iii) The appointment of a special supreme court composed of five (5) district judges who are not members of the commission, to act in the place of the supreme court in any case involving the discipline or disability of a justice of the supreme court; and

(iv) Procedures for the operation of the commission including exercise of the commission's disciplinary powers.


(f) The supreme court or special supreme court, on recommendation of the commission or on its own motion may:

(i) Suspend a judicial officer without salary when the judicial officer is charged with or is convicted in the United States of a crime punishable as a felony or one involving moral turpitude under Wyoming or federal law, and remove that judicial officer in the event such conviction becomes final;

(ii) For any judicial officer removed from office, order a forfeiture of any pension or retirement benefits accrued after the offending conduct, except for those that have been vested under the Wyoming retirement act or any local plan;

(iii) Suspend the judicial officer from practicing law in this state; and

(iv) Remove a judicial officer from office or impose other discipline permitted by the rules for judicial discipline for conduct that constitutes willful misconduct in office, or for a willful and persistent failure to perform the duties of the office, or for habitual intemperance, or for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, or for a violation of the code of judicial conduct.


(g) The code of judicial conduct shall provide for the mandatory retirement of a judicial officer for any disability that seriously interferes with the performance of the duties of the office and is, or is likely to become, permanent. A judicial officer retired by the supreme court or a special supreme court for a disability shall be considered to have retired voluntarily without loss of retirement benefits.

(h) A judicial officer removed from office is ineligible for any judicial office.


(j) This section applies to all judicial officers during their service on the bench and to former judicial officers regarding allegations of judicial misconduct occurring during service on the bench if a complaint is made within one (1) year following service. The term "judicial officer" includes all members of the judicial branch of government performing judicial functions.[1]

This section was amended by a resolution adopted by the 1917 legislature, ratified by a vote of the people at the general election held on November 5, 1918, and proclaimed in effect on December 3, 1918.

This section was amended again by a resolution adopted by the 1971 legislature, ratified by a vote of the people at the general election held on November 7, 1972, and proclaimed in effect on December 12, 1972.

This section was further amended by a resolution adopted by the 1995 legislature, ratified by a vote of the people at the general election held on November 5, 1996, and proclaimed in effect on November 18, 1996.

Section 7

Text of Section 7:

Supreme Court Generally; Terms of Court

At least two terms of the supreme court shall be held annually at the seat of government at such times as may be provided by law.[1]

Section 8

Text of Section 8:

Supreme Court Generally; Qualifications of Justices

No person shall be eligible to the office of justice of the supreme court unless he be learned in the law, have been in actual practice at least nine (9) years, or whose service on the bench of any court of record, when added to the time he may have practiced law, shall be equal to nine (9) years, be at least thirty years of age and a citizen of the United States, nor unless he shall have resided in this state or territory at least three years.[1]

Section 9

Text of Section 9:

Supreme Court Generally; Clerk

There shall be a clerk of the supreme court who shall be appointed by the justices of said court and shall hold his office during their pleasure, and whose duties and emoluments shall be as provided by law.[1]

Section 10

Text of Section 10:

District Courts Generally; Jurisdiction

The district court shall have original jurisdiction of all causes both at law and in equity and in all criminal cases, of all matters of probate and insolvency and of such special cases and proceedings as are not otherwise provided for. The district court shall also have original jurisdiction in all cases and of all proceedings in which jurisdiction shall not have been by law vested exclusively in some other court; and said court shall have the power of naturalization and to issue papers therefor. They shall have such appellate jurisdiction in cases arising in justices' and other inferior courts in their respective counties as may be prescribed by law. Said courts and their judges shall have power to issue writs of mandamus, quo warranto, review, certiorari, prohibition, injunction and writs of habeas corpus, on petition by or on behalf of any person in actual custody in their respective districts.[1]

Section 11

Text of Section 11:

District Courts Generally; Judges to Hold Court for Each Other

The judges of the district courts may hold courts for each other and shall do so when required by law.[1]

Section 12

Text of Section 12:

District Courts Generally; Qualifications of Judges

No person shall be eligible to the office of judge of the district court unless he be learned in the law, be at least twenty-eight years of age, and a citizen of the United States, nor unless he shall have resided within the State or Territory of Wyoming at least two years next preceding his election.[1]

Section 13

Text of Section 13:

District Courts Generally; Clerks

There shall be a clerk of the district court in each organized county in which a court is holden who shall be elected, or, in case of vacancy, appointed in such manner and with such duties and compensation as may be prescribed by law.[1]

Section 14

Text of Section 14:

District Courts Generally; Commissioners

The legislature shall provide by law for the appointment by the several district courts of one or more district court commissioners (who shall be persons learned in the law) in each organized county in which a district court is holden, such commissioners shall have authority to perform such chamber business in the absence of the district judge from the county or upon his written statement filed with the papers, that it is improper for him to act, as may be prescribed by law, to take depositions and perform such other duties, and receive such compensation as shall be prescribed by law.[1]

Section 15

Text of Section 15:

Style of Process

The style of all process shall be "The State of Wyoming." All prosecutions shall be carried on in the name and by the authority of the State of Wyoming, and conclude "against the peace and dignity of the State of Wyoming."[1]

Section 16

Text of Section 16:

Supreme Court Judges Limited to Judicial Duties

No duties shall be imposed by law upon the supreme court or any of the judges thereof, except such as are judicial, nor shall any of the judges thereof exercise any power of appointment except as herein provided.[1]

Section 17

Text of Section 17:

Salaries of Judges of Supreme and District Courts

The judges of the supreme and district courts shall receive such compensation for their services as may be prescribed by law, which compensation shall not be increased or diminished during the term for which a judge shall have been elected, and the salary of a judge of the supreme or district court shall be as may be prescribed by law; provided, however, that when any legislative increase or decrease in the salary of the justices or judges of such courts whose respective terms of office do not expire at the same time, has heretofore or shall hereafter become effective as to any member of such court, it shall be effective from such date as to each of the members thereof.[1]

This section was amended by a resolution adopted by the 1953 legislature, ratified by a vote of the people at the general election held on November 2, 1954, and proclaimed in effect on December 7, 1954.

Section 18

Text of Section 18:

Appeals from District Courts to Supreme Court

Writs of error and appeals may be allowed from the decisions of the district courts to the supreme court under such regulations as may be prescribed by law.[1]

Section 19

Text of Section 19:

State Divided into Districts; Election and Terms of District Judges

Until otherwise provided by law, the state shall be divided into three judicial districts, in each of which there shall be elected at general elections, by the electors thereof, one judge of the district court therein, whose term shall be six (6) years from the first Monday in January succeeding his election and until his successor is duly qualified.[1]

Section 20

Text of Section 20:

Districts Defined

Until otherwise provided by law, said judicial districts shall be constituted as follows: District number one shall consist of the counties of Laramie, Converse and Crook. District number two shall consist of the counties of Albany, Johnson and Sheridan. District number three shall consist of the counties of Carbon, Sweetwater, Uinta and Fremont.[1]

Section 21

Text of Section 21:

Increase in Number of Districts and Judges

The legislature may from time to time increase the number of said judicial districts and the judges thereof, but such increase or change in the boundaries of the district shall not work the removal of any judge from his office during the term for which he may have been elected or appointed; provided the number of districts and district judges shall not exceed four (4) until the valuation of taxable property in the state shall be equal to one hundred million ($100,000,000) dollars.[1]

Section 22

Text of Section 22:

Jurisdiction of Justices of the Peace

Repealed.[1]

Section 23

Text of Section 23:

Appeals from Justices’ Courts

Repealed.[1]

Sections 22 and 23 were repealed by a resolution adopted by the 1965 legislature, ratified by a vote of the people at the general election held on November 8, 1966, and proclaimed in effect on January 17, 1967.

Section 24

Text of Section 24:

Terms of District Courts; Attaching Unorganized Territory to Organized Counties

The time of holding courts in the several counties of a district shall be as prescribed by law, and the legislature shall make provisions for attaching unorganized counties or territory to organized counties for judicial purposes.[1]

Section 25

Text of Section 25:

Judges of Supreme and District Courts Shall Not Practice

No judge of the supreme or district court shall act as attorney or counsellor at law.[1]

Section 26

Text of Section 26:

Power to Fix Terms of Court

Until the legislature shall provide by law for fixing the terms of courts, the judges of the supreme court and district courts shall fix the terms thereof.[1]

Section 27

Text of Section 27:

Judges of Supreme and District Courts Shall Not Hold Other Office

No judge of the supreme or district court shall be elected or appointed to any other than judicial offices or be eligible thereto during the term for which he was elected or appointed such judge.[1]

Section 28

Text of Section 28:

Appeals from Boards of Arbitration

Appeals from decisions of compulsory boards of arbitration shall be allowed to the supreme court of the state, and the manner of taking such appeals shall be prescribed by law.[1]

Section 29

Text of Section 29:

Juvenile Delinquency and Domestic Relations Courts

The legislature may by general law provide for such juvenile delinquency and domestic relations courts as may be needed, and for the number, qualifications and election of judges of such courts. Appeals shall lie in such cases and pursuant to such regulations as may be prescribed by law. Such courts shall have such jurisdiction as the legislature may by law provide.[1]

This section was added by an amendment proposed by the 1947 legislature, ratified by a vote of the people at the general election held on November 2, 1948, and proclaimed in effect on December 1, 1948.

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