Hill asks Wyoming Supreme Court to overturn law that removed her powers

2013-05-21T06:00:00Z 2013-07-22T19:21:04Z Hill asks Wyoming Supreme Court to overturn law that removed her powersBy JOSHUA WOLFSON Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

The Wyoming Supreme Court should overturn a law that stripped away most of the power from embattled Wyoming schools superintendent Cindy Hill, her attorney argued in new court papers.

The law that transferred almost all of the superintendent’s duties to an appointed education director violates the Wyoming Constitution, Hill attorney Angela Dougherty wrote in a brief filed Friday. The constitution grants general authority over the state’s schools to the superintendent of public instruction, not the governor or the Legislature, she argued.

Hill maintains the Legislature encroached on the powers of the

executive branch of government when it removed her as head of the Wyoming Department of Education. Such a sweeping move, Hill claims, requires a change to the state’s constitution.

“Had the delegates to the 1889 constitutional convention wanted to give those powers to someone else, they would have done so,” her attorney wrote. “Instead, the framers trusted the voters with selecting the superintendent, and in doing so, barred the Legislature, by itself, from modifying the constitutionally prescribed balance of powers.”

Hill has been joined in her lawsuit by two Platte County residents who voted for her in 2010. Their suit claims the law nullified their votes by dramatically altering the superintendent’s duties in the middle of her term in office.

Lawmakers passed the so-called “Hill Bill” in January. Hill filed suit against Gov. Matt Mead on the same day he signed it into law.

The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office, which is representing Mead, has until July 5 to respond. In earlier court documents, Mead’s attorneys have maintained lawmakers acted within the scope of their powers when they passed the bill. The bill’s defenders say the state Constitution allows legislators to transfer some of the superintendent’s powers to an education director appointed by the governor.

The law left Hill with only a handful of duties. She is responsible for developing toxic waste disposal guidelines, addressing head injuries, preparing an annual report on public schools and hosting professional development workshops for teachers. She went from overseeing a staff of 150 to seven.

She contends the framers of the Wyoming Constitution intended for the superintendent to have broad influence over the state’s education system. Lawmakers are responsible for funding schools and can define the general duties of the superintendent. They cannot, though, transfer supervision of the system to the governor, the brief said.

“The Legislature chose, by enacting [the law], to strip nearly all power and duty from the superintendent — a de facto impeachment, but did not afford her the due process required by the Constitution for removal from office,” her attorney wrote.

A lower court judge has already rejected Hill’s request to halt the law until the matter can be fully decided. He did agree to send the case directly to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Contact Joshua Wolfson at 307-266-0582.

or at josh.wolfson@trib.com. Visit http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/wolfjammies to read his blog. Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. supercalifragilistic
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    supercalifragilistic - May 21, 2013 4:21 pm
    Salty Dawg, if I may?
    According to news sources back then, Gov. Dave saw the polls of his support and did not challenge Wyoming's term limits. That's all I can say, as you can either accept the reports of back then or, deny it in a "left wing way" of rejection.
  2. Salty Dawg
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    Salty Dawg - May 21, 2013 3:26 pm
    You bet,and Wyoming's three Congressional duds get plenty for doing nothing too.
  3. Salty Dawg
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    Salty Dawg - May 21, 2013 3:26 pm

    Dave's support of Obama had nothing to do with his Governorship ending,it was term limits.I smell a right wing rat in your comment.

  4. supercalifragilistic
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    supercalifragilistic - May 21, 2013 1:06 pm
    Big Evan Diehl, if I may?
    From what I understand, In the same way the Wyoming Legislature [years ago] placed the Wyoming Education Secretary position as an elected position. Is the same legislature [by law] that must place it on the ballot for Wyoming voters. to make that determination as well.
    My take is, the law makers are trying to strip Hill's duties in effort to point that the job is irrelevant to the public's needs since Hill took office. Therefore placing it on the ballot box for public office removal. If you don't mind being manipulate? This is the way to go.
  5. Big Evan Diehl
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    Big Evan Diehl - May 21, 2013 11:27 am
    The legislature essentially converted Hill's position to an appointed one, rather than an elected one, without amending Wyoming's constitution. That's the main issue, isn't it? If it looks like a power grab, and smells like a power grab...
  6. supercalifragilistic
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    supercalifragilistic - May 21, 2013 9:17 am
    Sassy, if I may?
    Some how I don't see this as a competitive issue using an attorney but, do see someone defending her publicly promised oath to the public. Don't be a bit surprised if some law makers lose their seats without giving account next before election cycle. I'm not talking about accusing without proof but, treating Wyoming voters like Missourians and show me proof.
  7. supercalifragilistic
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    supercalifragilistic - May 21, 2013 9:08 am
    Salty Dawg, if I may?
    Asserting that this "in some how or in some way" is the voting public's fault is ludicrous at the least, as you suggest. There are good men and women that represent Wyoming but, there are also those that in manipulative ways force issues as this.
    Those are the leaders that should be brought into account should, Sec. Hill be found innocent of their actions? Personally, from what little I know, this is not a republican vs democrat thing nor a liberal verses are conservative issue.

    But I thought I saw a case where the [proverbial - axe] was being ground sharp to hatchet someone support of the people. The $64k question is, what was the Hill-Bill created for and why?
    So far, (out of one speaking on this forum), I've heard nothing but grumblings through media and legislators who've apparently signed but, not stepped forward to give account. What's wrong with this picture, when voters are asking questions?

    Cindy Hill may not be the best possible person for the job but, she wasn't applying for the job either. Cindy Hill asked the voters for approval to run the Wyoming Education Dept and was elected in asking so.
    But be of good courage as, Wyoming is too conservative to elect anything less that a strong conservative democrat like Gov Dave, was. And supporting an extreme liberal like Obama at the end, pretty much ended his governorship.
  8. nckwfan
    Report Abuse
    nckwfan - May 21, 2013 9:06 am
    Take a look at what is going on with the Obama administration. IRS problems, targeting journalists, misuse of executive orders, huge turnover is his cabinet, lying about health care to the supreme court, etc...But Americans chose him. I do not like O'bama or Hill, but I respect the process of voting. I hope Cindy Hill wins. Granted she was not he person for the job and she gets a big check for little work. She has a lot in common with congress.
  9. Pops
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    Pops - May 21, 2013 8:53 am
    The courts will decide Hill's fate. Our judicial system is one that works to the benefit of the people most of the time.
  10. Salty Dawg
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    Salty Dawg - May 21, 2013 7:47 am
    Weather Hill is the right,or wrong,person for the job is moot.The way the RINO's went about railroading her out is Wyoming politics at it's worst.Those of you who keep voting for the commies that insist on having their way at any cost,should take a long,hard look in the mirror as you are the very problem in Wyoming politics.
  11. Sassy
    Report Abuse
    Sassy - May 21, 2013 6:48 am
    Go get em Angela..
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