Wyoming Supreme Court receives questions to be answered in abortion case
By Kate Ready
Jackson Hole Daily
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
JACKSON — The certification order in the statewide legal challenge to Wyoming’s abortion ban was received by the Wyoming Supreme Court on Friday.
The case has been docketed, meaning it has been given a case number and the 30-day countdown on the court’s decision as to whether it will accept the case and answer the legal questions in the certification order has begun.
The court has until Jan. 9, 2023, to issue its decision on whether it will accept the case.
In her certification order signed Nov. 30, Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens sent 12 questions “up,” revolving around the constitutionality of Wyoming’s abortion restrictions.
The questions include whether House Bill 92 is unconstitutionally vague and whether it violates sections of the state constitution, such as Wyomingites’ right to privacy, their right to equality, as well as their right to private property and to make their own health care decisions.
In her Nov. 30 certification order, Owens stated she could not find “any Wyoming Supreme Court precedent addressing the questions of law to be answered.”
Chief Deputy Clerk Laura Mickey for the Wyoming Supreme Court said she didn’t know what criteria the Wyoming Supreme Court justices use when deciding whether they will accept or deny cases sent to them.
If the Supreme Court declines, the case will be closed, and no request for reconsideration will be allowed, the Wyoming Rules of Appellate Procedure state.
The rules also state that the Wyoming Supreme Court is not obligated to answer every one of the questions certified, and that the court has the authority to “alter” the questions to be answered.
If accepted, the case will receive a schedule and move into the briefing stage. The appellant, in this case deemed by Judge Owens to be the plaintiffs, will then file a brief within 45 days.
If the case is accepted and the plaintiffs file their briefs, the state defendants will then file their briefs within 45 days after that. Then the case would move into oral arguments before the court.
The six plaintiffs want to see the ban — which criminalizes abortions for women and providers, except in circumstances of rape, incest or physical risk to the mother’s life — declared unconstitutional on multiple grounds.
The plaintiffs have argued that their bodies are private property, and that the ban discriminates based on sex, as well as violates their rights to privacy and to make their own health care decisions.
The plaintiffs include two women of childbearing age, two obstetric physicians and two abortion access nonprofits. They are suing the state, Gov. Mark Gordon, Attorney General Bridget Hill, Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr and Jackson Chief of Police Michelle Weber.
Special Assistant Attorney General Jay Jerde is representing the state defendants.