Wyoming Liberty Group
After narrowly emerging from the Wyoming Senate Judiciary Committee by a 3-2 vote on Monday, yesterday the entire Wyoming Senate began to consider Senate File 14, which would replace civil forfeiture under the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act with criminal forfeiture. That is, instead of law enforcement being able to seize and forfeit cash, cars, firearms and other property that is allegedly related to the drug trade through a civil proceeding (where the property owner is not provided an attorney and is subject to a preponderance of the evidence standard instead of proof beyond a reasonable doubt), the property owner will have to be convicted of a drug felony before losing any property.
Today, 12 people were murdered in Paris at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The murderers are (with about 99.9% certainty) cowardly fanatics who believe it is appropriate to shoot people for publishing cartoons lampooning Mohammed.
The Legislative Service Office continues to post bills that will be introduced next month when the Wyoming Legislature convenes for the 2015 General Session. Recent appearances include some proposed joint resolutions. On the House side so far there is a proposed amendment to the Wyoming Constitution that would make the Wyoming superintendent of schools an appointed position. Although this is the legitimate way to enact the notorious Senate File 104 (2013) following the Powers v. Wyoming case, it is likely to be met with controversy almost equaling the original SF104 effort. Perhaps controversial, but more uplifting is House Joint Resolution 1, “Regulation Freedom.”
In October, comedian John Oliver discussed the practice of civil asset forfeiture on his HBO program “Last Week Tonight.” His bit closed with a parody of the show “Law & Order,” featuring a police detective interrogating a pile of money and another running in dramatic slow motion with a seized toaster. Unfortunately, in real life civil forfeiture is often not very funny, and across Wyoming police may seize and the state may forfeit property that is allegedly related to the drug trade. They may take cash, cars, firearms and other property without convicting or even charging the owner of a crime. It’s time to end this practice.
In late September I submitted comments to the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information (“A&I”) opposing two proposed changes to the State of Wyoming Personnel Rules. My memo discussed two vague and overbroad provisions, one which could lead to unconstitutional abridgements of free speech and the other which unequivocally punished applicants for merely associating with people who say the wrong things about the government:
The 2015 Wyoming Legislative Session is nearly one month away, and the Legislative Service Office (LSO) is busy finalizing bills and posting them online. Since this will be a full legislative session that will last 40 days, every bill will be introduced (in budget sessions every other year, a 2/3 vote in one house is required to introduce a bill). Although bills can die in many ways, usually in a general session each bill at least gets a hearing before its assigned committee. At the time of this writing, ten bills were available, already promising lively discussions on turning the Quebec 1 missile alert facility into a historic site and when to treat road kill as game. Perhaps most interesting so far, however, is Senate File 3, “Right to Try.”
In mid-November, Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael joined an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief filed in a Maryland case that will soon be heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The case, Kolbe v. O’Malley, challenges a law recently enacted in Maryland that bans numerous semi-automatic rifles in the state and limits detachable magazine capacity to 10 rounds. Patrick Morrisey, attorney general for the state of West Virginia, took point on the brief, and 19 other states joined along with Wyoming. The lawsuit itself is led by a coalition of gun owners, gun dealers, gun clubs and interest groups.