Sort It Out
Published on Jan. 18, 2020
As you read in last week’s Roundup about the brand inspection issues in Sublette County, this issue is very important to all livestock producers in the state. But, the important issue has taken a back seat to legal issues on how the Wyoming State Statutes are carried out.
As you know, I’m not a lawyer, not even a good bunkhouse lawyer, so I’m not going to comment on what is legal or not. I can comment on the great importance of having strong and understandable brand laws.
Our State Statutes governing brand laws and livestock inspections have been around for a long time, some since the state was formed. At times they have been adjusted or brought up to date to better serve the times, but you know, people are still stealing livestock, just as it happened years ago when the first cattle, sheep and horses came into the state.
I would bet the first livestock stolen in Wyoming were either a draft horse or a milk cow. Now days, if you stole a milk cow you would be sent to the crazy house instead of jail.
Today, we are all watching Sublette County, along with other counties, as the case has been moved to other judges to sort out legally.
It all started when a Deputy Sheriff stopped an out-of-county pickup pulling an out of state horse trailer with five horses for a brand inspection, something that regularly happens in Sublette County and other countries around the state.
The driver was charged with five violations of the state brand inspection law as he didn’t have the proper paperwork. The driver went before a Magistrate in Sublette County and he ruled that as a “regulatory stop” under the law, prosecution had to show the horses owner’s vehicle was “commercial property involved in a closely regulated industry whose operation poses a clear and significant risk to public welfare.”
And so, not finding those conditions, the magistrate said the Deputy Sheriff’s stop was unconstitutional. Well, that threw the current brand laws into question legally.
But wait, the court and county officials realized that the magistrate had not been properly appointed and approved. He had not been approved by the Sublette County Commissioners. By a three to two vote, the Commissioners subsequently voted to approve the magistrate.
Then the question came up, were all of the rulings by the magistrate before he was approved null and void?
The Sublette County Deputy Attorney filed a petition for a writ of review following the prosecution’s earlier motion asking the Sublette County Circuit Court to review and reverse the magistrate’s ruling that the Deputy’s stop of the vehicle and search of the horse trailer were unreasonable.
The Circuit Court Judge upheld the Magistrate’s ruling and canceled the horse’s owner trial and transferred the motion and the owner’s case to the Albany County Circuit Court. We’re hearing, that Judge recused himself and moved it to Sheridan County.
We’ll see where it goes from here and realize it will likely end up in the Wyoming Supreme Court.
The importance of this case is the decisions will affect the whole state. Livestock producers will want strict brand and inspection statutes and those who are not producers but use livestock for recreation and other means will not want as strict statutes.
Brand laws are like water laws, unless one knows the outcome of decisions and legislation, they are best left alone.