Wyoming Secretary of State Max Maxfield filed suit in state district court last Thursday, Sept. 29, to seek a court ruling on term limits for the state’s executive branch.
As Secretary of State, Maxfield is the state’s chief election officer. Maxfield filed the suit in his individual capacity because he believes that having an unconstitutional statute on the books that applies to statewide elected officials is an issue that must be corrected.
In 2004, the Wyoming Supreme Court unanimously struck down a state statute on term limits for the legislative branch. Because the lawsuit was filed by a group of state legislators, the court only ruled on the portion of the statute that applied to the legislative branch.
The section of the statute that limits the terms of executive branch officers stayed on the books, even though it was adopted through the same process the court determined was unconstitutional, Maxfield said. One of the statewide elected officials needed to file the suit to challenge the remaining portion of the statute.
Maxfield said in filing the suit that he is taking a leadership role for important legal consistency and constitutionality.
“This is about responsibility and constitutionality — two things we take seriously in Wyoming,” Maxfield said. “Knowing that we have an unconstitutional state statute makes it paramount that we correct it with leadership and courage.
“I’m in the first year of my second term. It’s less about whether I run again and more about cleaning up an unconstitutional mess in the Election Code.”
Holland and Hart Attorney Brad Cave, who filed the suit on behalf of Maxfield, explained that the statute is unconstitutional as it applies to elected officials because it added an additional qualification to hold office not specified in Wyoming’s Constitution without following the process for amending the state constitution. Currently the Constitution specifies age and residency only as the primary qualifications.
The suit was filed in state district court Thursday in Cheyenne. Maxfield has requested that the suit be directed to the supreme court expeditiously.