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Legally Speaking


Issue: October, 2007
Author: Michael L. Hubbard

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The Wyoming Attorney General's Office: An Overview

As a young assistant attorney general, I stood before the Honorable Ewing T. Kerr, confident that I could answer any questions about my motion. Then came the question from that wonderful deep voice, “Counsel, how many attorneys are there in the Attorney General’s Office?”

What? Was I in the wrong place? Was this a comment on my performance? “Counsel, when I was Attorney General there was one deputy and one assistant . . .” The next several minutes involved a discussion regarding the size of government and appropriate levels of legal support. Thereafter I learned that this scenario had occurred many times, both before and after my experience. My colleagues, although numerous, had failed to warn me. For the record, learned co-counsel did admit to prior knowledge by laughing out loud. Over the years, Judge Kerr had made it a practice to survey the size of the office he once held from 1939 to 1943.

General Facts
Wyoming is one of seven states that appoints, rather than elects, the state Attorney General. In Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire and New Jersey, the governor also appoints the Attorney General. Maine selects its AG by joint ballot of the legislature. In Tennessee, the AG is appointed by the state supreme court.

The framers of the Wyoming Constitution actually considered a cost-saving proposal that would have made the “Supreme Court act as the attorney general.” A delegate from Albany County, argued, “Speaking from a layman's point of view . . . , it is no more than right that the supreme court should have something to do. If we have a supreme court, . . . they won't have more than two weeks of work in the year, and I see no reason on earth why they should not be required to give any information that would be required of a state's attorney. . . .” Fortunately, the delegates opted for an independent supreme court; however, an attorney general was not provided for in the Constitution. In Wyoming, the office is created by statute.

With the most recent appointment of Bruce A. Salzburg, 34 attorneys general have been appointed in Wyoming history. The first was Hugo Donzelmann who served as the territorial AG upon creation of the office on March 31, 1886. The annual salary was $1,200 to be paid quarterly. The term of office was two years. Upon statehood, he also became the first state attorney general appointed by Governor F. E. Warren.

The average length of service for a Wyoming AG is approximately three and a half years. The longest continuous tenure is held by Joseph B. Meyer from 1987 to 1995, or over eight years. The second longest continuous tenure was Douglas A. Preston who served from 1911 to 1919, or eight years. The third longest was Norman B. Gray who served almost eight years in total, but at separate times, from 1947 to 1951 and 1959 to 1963. Thus, there have been 35 appointments but only 34 AGs.

Seven AGs have been appointed to the Wyoming Supreme Court: Charles N. Potter in 1895, Josiah A. Van Orsdel in 1905, Harry S. Harnsberger in 1953, Norman B. Gray in 1962; John F. Raper in 1974, John Rooney in 1978; and William U. Hill in 1998. All, except John Raper, were attorney general at the time of appointment. Justice Raper was appointed to the District Court in 1966 and appointed to the Supreme Court in 1974. In 1981, John D. Troughton was appointed to the District Court. It is noteworthy that A.G. McClintock was the only AG appointed after he had served on the Supreme Court.

At least three AGs have been appointed to the federal courts. Ewing T. Kerr and Clarence A. Brimmer were appointed in 1943 and 1974 respectively. James E. Barrett was appointed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1971.

The Governor’s appointment of AG requires the advice and consent of the Senate. In 1975, Senate confirmation was repealed but was subsequently reinstated in 2001. From statehood to 1975, the term of office was four years, thereafter the AG served without a specific term of office at the pleasure of the Governor.

The Attorney General must be “a practicing attorney” for at least four years prior to appointment, in good standing in the courts of record of this state and be a resident and elector of the state. The AG may not engage in private practice except to wind-up his private practice.

As the chief legal officer of the state, the Attorney General has a duty to protect the interests of the people in declaratory judgments where statutory constitutional questions are at issue. Any complaint challenging the constitutionality of a state statute, ordinance or franchise must be served on the Attorney General. Failure to serve the AG renders any declaration void.

The statutory duties of the Attorney General include: (1) the prosecution and defense of all suits by or against the state; (2) representation in criminal cases in the Supreme Court; (3) defense of suits against state officers; (4) serving as legal advisor to all elective and appointive state officers and county and district attorneys; (5) giving written opinions to state officers and legislators; (6) administering the Governor’s Planning Council on Development Disabilities; and (7) approval of state contracts. There are other statutory duties too numerous to mention.

The major Departments within the Office include the Law Office, the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), the Law Enforcement Academy (Academy), the Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission (POST), the Division of Victim Services and the Governor’s Council on Development Disabilities. With the approval of the Governor, the Attorney General appoints the directors of these departments.

DCI was established in 1973 and has approximately 100 employees dedicated to criminal investigations, criminal justice information, and the operation of the State Crime Laboratory. DCI has investigative authority over violations of the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act of 1971, organized crime, computer crimes and crimes involving sexual exploitation of children. DCI also partners with local law enforcement through regional drug enforcement teams.

The Academy, located in Douglas, was established in 1981 and has approximately 34 employees. The Academy “provide[s] education in law enforcement related areas to Wyoming peace officers” and an outreach training program for specialized or advanced training. For the last three years, the Academy annually trained on average: (1) 101 peace officers; (2) 77 detention officers; (3) 40 dispatchers; and (4) 13 coroners and deputy coroners. On average, 793 officers attended advanced training each year and 435 officers attended homeland security training each year.

The Division of Victim Services promotes programs dedicated to serving crime victims and supporting the Victim's Bill of Rights. In fiscal year 2007, the Division distributed $6,428,419 to 63 providers and approved 462 claims paying $1,171,123.27 to crime victims.

The Attorney General also serves on the POST Commission and has three employees dedicated to the administration of this program. POST was established in 1976 and establishes standards for employing, training and certifying all Wyoming peace officers.

Composition of Law Office
The Law Office is composed of five legal divisions: Criminal; Civil; Tort Litigation; Human Services; and Water and Natural Resources. The Law Office represents all state agencies, boards and commissions, as well as the five elected officials. The Law Office drafts formal and informal opinions at the request of the district attorneys, county attorneys, legislators, and agency and department heads.

Patrick J. Crank appears as counsel of record in 224 cases in the Wyoming Supreme Court as Attorney General and 24 federal cases. During Pat's tenure, the Office: reviewed approximately 15,191 state contracts; issued 358 informal opinions; issued 727 legislative bill reviews; and reviewed 563 sets of administrative rules. From January 21, 2005, to September 6, 2007, the Criminal Division filed 184 briefs in the Supreme Court.

Special Units
The Law Office also has several special units dedicated to specific activities. These include the Consumer Affairs/Tobacco Unit which handles approximately 4,000 consumer telephone calls per year. Last year, 1,634 written replies to consumer related issues were processed. In addition, $145,000 in restitution was recovered for consumers.

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigates allegations of fraud in the Medicaid program; allegations of abuse or neglect of patients in Medicaid-funded facilities; and allegations of misappropriation of patients' funds. Medicaid Fraud, from June 1, 2006, to August 31, 2007, opened 40 new cases, closed 35 cases, resulting in nine criminal prosecutions, and obtained $1,353,278.62 in judgments. It also opened 52 cases involving abuse/neglect, fraud, patient funds and global cases.

The School Finance Unit is in charge of the voluminous school finance litigation.

Patrick J. Crank
Pat Crank dedicated 22 years to public service (the AG’s Office, U.S. Attorney's Office and the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office) and worked extremely hard. We wish him and his family all the best. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. . . . Who knows the great enthusiasm; the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement.”

Thanks to Pat, we now have a researchable database for informal opinions and briefs containing over 2,000 opinions, as well as the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1889. Pat organized in-house trial practice training and an in-house writing improvement program. Under Pat’s beardless leadership, the Office raised and contributed over $15,000 for the 2006 United Way Campaign.

Upon leaving, Pat Crank noted that “being the Wyoming Attorney General is the best job on Earth.” It is a great place to work, largely due to the opportunity to gain valuable experience from some of the best lawyers and judges in Wyoming. The Attorneys General who have served, past and present, have dedicated a portion of their professional lives at a great personal sacrifice.

General Salzburg
Newly appointed AG Bruce A. Salzburg brings a wealth of talent and experience to the Office. He practiced law in Cheyenne for the past 24 years, specializing in defense of governmental and civil rights claims, personal injury and employment law. He also served as a Senior Assistant from 1979 to 1983. He has served as counsel of record in more than 40 reported cases.

There have been many “firsts” for the Office over the past few years. General Woodhouse, who now serves as the President of the Wyoming State Bar, was the first woman appointed. General McClintock was the first appointed having previously served on the Supreme Court. General Meyer was the first person appointed from the Legislative Service Office. General Hill was the first person appointed from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In answer to Judge Kerr’s question, we have approximately 70 attorneys. Several current and retired members of the Bar have served in the AG’s office, including the current Executive Director of the Bar Association. Numerous Wyoming lawyers started their careers in the AG’s Office. Thanks to the Legislature, we have competitive salaries, which has improved recruitment and the ability to retain and attract experienced attorneys. We also have great support staff.

Michael L. Hubbard, Deputy Attorney General, has been with the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office for 26 years, including serving as a legal intern in the summer of 1979. He graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1977 with a B.S. with honors in accounting and a JD in 1980. After graduation from UW Law School, Michael was employed with the First Judicial District Court in Cheyenne as a law clerk for Judges Alan B. Johnson and Joseph F. Maier. In 1981, he started working in the AG’s Office and has been with the Office ever since.

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