The Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled against Rex Rammell, a frequent candidate for statewide office, and affirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit after finding he concealed information he was obligated to turn over.
The state’s highest court circumscribed the extent of its review because Rammell — who represented himself in the appeal — did not file a transcript of the Sweetwater County District Court proceedings. The appellate court nevertheless determined the district court judge’s August 2018 decision to dismiss one of Rammell’s claims was a legitimate response to violating the rules of discovery.
“Generally speaking, dismissal of an action is an authorized sanction for a discovery violation,” Chief Justice Michael K. Davis stated in the court’s written decision, published May 21. “Given that authority, coupled with the constraints on our review created by the limited record, we summarily affirm the district court’s dismissal of Dr. Rammell’s breach of express contract claim.”
The Supreme Court likewise affirmed a lower court decision to declare summary judgement against the veterinarian on a set of other claims.
When reached by phone Friday afternoon, Rammell said the court’s decision was indicative of an overly complicated judiciary system. He said he would again file a lawsuit on the same issues, though he did not specify how he would convince a court to reconsider the decisions. He said the supreme court’s ruling against him was an abdication of that body’s responsibility.
“I thought it was cowardly, actually,” he said. “All I can tell you is the system is broken.”
Rammell also told the Star-Tribune that the district court judge was mistaken in determining he was deceitful during the discovery process and his statements in court were not credible.
Richard Honaker, the Rock Springs lawyer who represented the veterinary clinic, did not immediately respond to a late Friday afternoon message requesting comment for this story.
The appellate court’s rulings stem from a summer 2017 lawsuit that Rammell, a veterinarian, brought two months after Mountainaire Animal Clinic, a Rock Springs clinic, fired him. In the civil filing, Rammell also named Paul Zancanella, a veterinarian and the clinic’s owner, and Vicky Zancanella, the clinic’s office manager who is married to its owner, as defendants in the lawsuit.
In its response, the clinic alleged that after Paul Zancanella fired Rammell, he violated the terms of a non-compete clause. The clinic asked Judge Richard Lavery to expressly forbid Rammell from competing with Mountainaire. The district court granted the clinic’s request.
In June 2018, the clinic requested the judge declare summary judgement against Rammell. Lavery did so for all but one of Rammell’s claims, which alleged breach of contract. In August, the judge found that Rammell had mistakenly issued invalid subpoenas and had violated its injunction by offering veterinary services near the clinic. However, Lavery did not impose any sanctions.
The judge also found Rammell’s responses to discovery requests ranged from “evasive and misleading to outright false.” In response to the final finding, Lavery dismissed Rammell’s final remaining claim.
During the discovery phase of a lawsuit, parties to a case are required to respond to their opponents’ requests for information either by providing the requested evidence or by claiming it is exempt. The judge found Rammell instead hid information that would have favored his opponent.
“Plaintiff’s intent to fraudulently conceal this information can be inferred from the circumstances. There is a broad pattern of deceit,” Lavery wrote in his decision. “(No) lesser sanction than dismissal will suffice. The judicial process depends on transparency. ... A less severe sanction would not sufficiently remedy Plaintiff’s abusive conduct, as there is no way to ascertain whether he has concealed other crucial evidence, casting doubt on the reliability of any verdict in his favor.”
Although Rammell did not include a transcript of the evidentiary hearing that preceded the judge’s ruling, the court declined a request from the clinic to dismiss the appeal without further review. The appellate court, however, noted it was limited in the extent it could review the lower judge’s decision to dismiss the case.
In its decision to uphold the district judge’s decision to grant summary judgement against Rammell, the state Supreme Court noted the elements of his claim for tortious interference were not supported by facts.
Rammell ran for governor in 2018 as a Constitution Party candidate, finishing with about 3 percent of the vote. In 2016, he ran for U.S House, but lost in the primary to the eventual winner, Liz Cheney.