Magistrate’s ruling in Rammell livestock-stop case reversed
A judge has reversed a Sublette County magistrate’s Dec. 10, 2019 order suppressing a deputy’s livestock inspection stop of a truck and trailer bringing five horses into the county.
The reversal and remand to Circuit Court are due to part-time Magistrate Clay Kainer’s unofficial appointment when he ruled on the June 27, 2019 brand inspection stop challenged by owner Rex F. Rammell of Rock Springs, according to Fourth District Judge John G. Fenn.
Rammell did not deny not having proper brand inspections but challenged the constitutionality of Wyoming Statute 11-21-103(a), representing himself in Sublette County Circuit Court before Magistrate Kainer.
Rammell said the statute violated his Fourth Amendment rights against warrantless search. Deputy County Attorney Stan Cannon argued the law is constitutional and that the statewide law “on its face allows peace officers to stop livestock carriers with probable cause or reasonable suspicion for the limited purpose of conducting a brand inspection.”
In his decision, Kainer followed Rammell’s argument and agreed the stop should be suppressed or thrown out.
The Sublette County Attorney’s Office requested a judicial review of the misdemeanor case ruling, first in Circuit Court where Judge Curt Haws ruled Kainer’s decision “was sound and appropriate and that he acted in the good faith belief that he had been properly appointed.”
Judge Haws transferred the case to First Circuit Court Judge Robert Castor.
Two weeks after his ruling, county commissioners approved Kainer’s belated appointment in a three to two vote.
The prosecution then requested a District Court review and Ninth District Judge Marv Tyler transferred it to Judge Fenn.
He rephrased the issues brought up by Rammell and Cannon, narrowing them to three questions.
“Does the fact that the magistrate was not properly appointed mandate reversal and remand? Who should have the burden of proof on remand? What test should the Circuit Court apply on remand?” he asked.
Higher court ruling
Judge Fenn determined Kainer’s appointment and his evidence ruling were not viable and reversed and remanded them.
“Magistrate Kainer did not have the authority or jurisdiction to enter any orders before he had been properly appointed and jurisdiction cannot be created retroactively by a Circuit Court judge ratifying a void order,” Judge Fenn wrote. “Therefore, the case must be remanded to Circuit Court for a new hearing before a properly appointed judicial officer.”
That will take place in First Circuit Court, with the case file maintained in the Pinedale court.
“It was clear Rammell repeatedly challenged the constitutionality of W.S. 11-21-103(a),” Judge Fenn said.
“Throughout the proceedings in Circuit Court there was confusion about which party had the burden of proof,” he wrote. “Magistrate Kainer agreed with Rammell and placed the burden on the state. It is true when a defendant challenges a warrantless search, the state bears the burden of proving the legality of the search. However, in this case the state showed the warrantless search was specifically authorized by W.S. 11-21-103(a).”
The Circuit Court judge will set a new hearing on Rammell’s motion to suppress and must apply the prosecution’s legal analysis to determine if Rammell has met his burden of proving that W.S. 11-21-103(a) is unconstitutional.
The Attorney General’s Office is being appraised of the review and decision because of the questions about the law’s constitutionality.
Joy Ufford is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.