2/8/2013 6:40:00 AM,
Jeff D. Gorman
(CN) - Term limits for Wyoming elected officials would improperly keep the secretary of state from seeking a third term, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled.
Facing the end of his second four-year term in January 2015, Secretary of State Max Maxfield filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against Wyoming.
Maxfield challenged a rule, Section 22-5-103, that limited him to eight years in office in a 16-year span, which voters approved by initiative in 1992.
The state argued that Maxfield did not present a justiciable controversy because he did not state in his complaint that he intended to run for a third term.
At the request of both parties, a Laramie County certified two questions to the state Supreme Court. It answered them in Maxfield's favor last week.
"Mr. Maxfield's claim that § 22-5-103 violates his right to be a candidate for secretary of state involves a matter of great public importance and the usual requirements for showing a justiciable controversy may be relaxed," Chief Justice Marilyn Kite wrote for the five-member court.
In deciding the constitutionality issue, Kite and the court looked at Section 3 of the Wyoming Constitution, which states: "Since equality in the enjoyment of natural and civil rights is only made sure through political equality, the laws of this state affecting the political rights and privileges of its citizens shall be without distinction of race, color, sex or any circumstance or condition whatsoever other than individual incompetency, or unworthiness duly ascertained by a court of competent jurisdiction."
As such, it would be discriminatory to bar Maxfield from running for office on the basis that he currently holds that office, the court ruled.
"Because § 22-5-103 conditions the right to hold the office of secretary of state on incumbency, which is not one of the circumstances or conditions enumerated, it is unconstitutional." Kite wrote.
In addition to the office of secretary of state, the court said its opinion applies to the offices of auditor, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction.