Wyoming lawyers: Toss lawsuit by Hill petition supporters

2013-07-29T19:50:00Z 2013-08-07T08:32:13Z Wyoming lawyers: Toss lawsuit by Hill petition supportersBy JOSHUA WOLFSON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette

CASPER, Wyo. — A state court lacks the authority to grant more time to organizers of a petition drive seeking to restore power to the Wyoming schools superintendent, according to lawyers for Secretary of State Max Maxfield.

Instead, a Laramie District Court judge should toss a lawsuit that claims Maxfield violated the rights of petition supporters by allegedly taking too long to provide them with petition forms, Maxfield’s lawyers wrote in court papers filed earlier this month.

Petition sponsor Jennifer Young wants another 90 days to gather signatures challenging a new law that removed schools Superintendent Cindy Hill as head of the education department. She claims organizers wasted two weeks waiting for a state-approved printer to complete the petition forms.

Lawyers with the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office, which is representing Maxfield, assert the district court doesn’t have the power to grant more time for signature gathering. They also argue Young isn’t entitled to such a remedy.

Young filed the suit last month. She did not respond Monday to a message seeking comment.

Organizers wanted voters to decide next year whether the law should be repealed. They believe the law -- which left Hill with little power -- violates the state Constitution. Their supporters collected nearly 22,000 signatures, but the drive still fell short by more than 15,000 names.

Young claims she received approval for the drive March 7 and selected a vendor that day from three businesses approved by the Secretary of State’s Office.

The petitions weren’t ready until March 21, costing organizers nearly 16 percent of the 90-day drive, her lawsuit states. Young says another printer told her the job shouldn’t have taken so long to complete.

Maxfield’s attorneys deny the Secretary of State’s Office took two weeks to prepare the petitions, according to their answer to the lawsuit. They also deny he violated the rights of voters to petition their government.

No court date has been set for the case, according to a clerk at the Laramie County District Court office.

Hill has also challenged the constitutionality of the law. She sued the state in January, and the case will be heard by the Wyoming Supreme Court next month.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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