Governor Mark Gordon announced Friday the appointment of Stuart S. Healy III to fill the upcoming District Court Judge vacancy for the Sixth Judicial District, following the retirement of Judge Michael “Nick” Deegan, who’s last official day will be Dec. 25.
The Sixth Judicial District serves Campbell, Crook, and Weston counties. Healy’s appointment will take effect Dec. 26.
Healy has served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Wyoming since 2005 and previously served as an Assistant County Attorney in Sheridan and in private practice. He received his bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees from the University of Notre Dame. Healy, his wife Allison, and one daughter live in Cheyenne. Two other children are in college.
Deegan’s last official day is significant, because it will also be his 70th birthday, the age at which the Wyoming Constitution requires district court judges to retire.
Wyoming history of judicial retirements
As originally approved, Wyoming’s Constitution had no mandatory retirement provisions for judges, similar to the U.S. Constitution with Supreme Court Justices. The difference with Wyoming’s Constitution, however, was that Wyoming’s judges were elected by the people and it was decided that so long as the people continued to elect their judges, the will of the people was being carried out and the judge should be allowed to serve.
In 1971, the Wyoming Legislature desired to amend the Wyoming Constitution to change the method of selecting judges and also to set limits on a judge’s age.
That same year, the Legislature proposed amendments to the Wyoming Constitution by resolution, which was ratified by the voters at the general election held on Nov. 7, 1972.
The amendment changed the process for selection of judges by creating a Judicial Nominating Commission who would interview candidates for judge positions, select three candidates to forward to the Governor for consideration and the Governor would select a judge to fill the vacancy.
However, in keeping with Wyoming’s tradition of the voters having input on those serving in the judicial branch, judges would now stand for retention at election, with district judges being up for retention every six years and circuit court judges every four.
Additionally, the 1972 amendment also established age limits for judges and justices, with 70 years old becoming the threshold.
There has been discussion around the U.S. in recent years and within Wyoming about the need to revisit age limits for judges and justices as people are generally living longer and retaining their faculties later in life.
A new judge will take over the reins
“The Judicial Nominating Commission once again submitted three outstanding candidates for consideration,” Governor Gordon said in the Nov. 30 release. “Stu’s experience as a federal prosecutor and as a county attorney will serve him well as a judge in the Sixth District.”
“I’m humbled by the Governor’s faith in me to serve the people of Campbell, Crook, and Weston counties as District Court Judge,” Healy said. “I recognize I’m following a tradition of dedicated and excellent judges in this District. I intend to work hard to maintain that tradition.”
This general election four Sixth Judicial District judges are up for retention, including District Court Judges John R. Perry and Thomas W. Rumpke, and Circuit Court Judges Wendy Bartlett and Matthew Castano.