GILLETTE, Wyo. — Two Sixth Judicial District judges appear on Campbell County ballots in 2022’s general election: Hon. Stuart Healy III and Hon. Paul Phillips.
Healy, a district court judge, and Phillips, a circuit court judge, are up for judicial retention.
In 1972, Wyoming voters and legislators amended the Constitution to adopt a merit-based system for choosing and retaining judges, allowing voters a say in whether judges Wyoming’s governor chose should remain in office, the Wyoming State Bar said. Wyoming’s one of 16 states, along with Washington, D.C., that have an assisted appointment method of judicial selection, which is also known as merit selection or the Missouri plan, for intermediate appellate and general jurisdictional courts, according to Ballotpedia.
The Wyoming State Bar completes a judicial performance assessment annually to give feedback to judges and to help the public make more informed choices in judicial retention elections.
This year, Healy and Phillips are among the judges the Bar assessed. Only Bar attorneys who appeared before the judge in the past two years were invited to evaluate the judge in an anonymous, online survey.
“The Wyoming State Bar surveys about the performance of justices/judges standing for retention to obtain feedback about justices’/judges’ performance and to learn whether attorneys think those justices/judges appearing on the ballot should remain in office,” the Bar said. “Survey results do NOT compare or rank the justices’/judges’ performance.”
Judge Stuart S. Healy III
Healy was admitted to practice in 1997. Gov. Mark Gordon appointed him to the bench in 2020, after Judge Michael “Nick” Deegan retired. Before that, Healy was an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Wyoming, Gordon’s news release said.
Healy’s eligible for another six-year term. In the assessment, 46 of 57 attorneys, or 81%, said Healy should be retained. Three said he shouldn’t be retained. Eight had no opinion.
Judge Paul Phillips
Phillips was admitted to practice in 2005. Gov. Matt Mead appointed him to the bench in 2017, after Judge Terrill Tharp retired. Phillips previously was in private practice of law in Gillette. He was retained in 2018. He could serve another four-year term.
Fifteen of 26 attorneys, or 58%, said Phillips should be retained. Five said he shouldn’t be retained, and six had no opinion.
Supreme Court justices and district court judges must retire at age 70, while circuit court judges don’t need to retire. In the 2022 general election, voters are asked whether they believe the mandatory retirement age should be raised to 75 years old.
The public can petition legislators to amend Wyoming law or amend the Constitution. Also, anyone who believes a judge or justice has behaved unethically can file a complaint with the Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics.