Wyoming Candidates Fight Term Limits

Both sides in a lawsuit challenging the state term limits law cite the Wyoming Constitution (search) in support of their arguments on the legality of the restriction.

The lawsuit was filed by Sen. Rich Cathcart, D-Carpenter, and Rep. Rodney "Pete" Anderson, R-Pine Bluffs, and two of their constituents. The two legislators are among 13 House and Senate members subject to term limits (search) this year.

Written briefs were filed Tuesday with the Wyoming Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for 3 p.m. next Wednesday.

Attorneys for Cathcart and Anderson argued the only legal way to limit the terms of elected state officials is through a constitutional amendment. The 1992 term limits law was adopted through a ballot initiative and was later modified by the Legislature.

"The right to untrammeled suffrage (search) has been expressly identified within the Constitution as a right to be jealously guarded," attorneys Harriet Hageman and Timothy M. Stubson wrote.

The state constitution sets the term length and qualifications for senators and representatives, including state citizenship, residence and minimum ages. It makes no reference to term limits.

The brief filed by Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank (search) and his chief deputy, Michael O'Donnell, emphasized that the term limits law was overwhelmingly approved in the November 1992 general election by 77 percent of the people who voted on the ballot question.

They argue that the Wyoming Constitution reserves power to the people, including the power to adopt term limits.

"The plaintiffs failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the law is unconstitutional," the state brief said.

The term limits law holds House and Senate members to 12 years and the governor, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer and superintendent of public instruction to eight years in office.