Local Residents Get to Be Judges for a Night

Wyoming's state supreme court justices at the start of Tuesday night's program. From left, Michael Davis, William Hill, James Burke, Marilyn Kite and Catherine Fox. (Photo by Pat Blair)
Wyoming's state supreme court justices at the start of Tuesday night's program. From left, Michael Davis, William Hill, James Burke, Marilyn Kite and Catherine Fox. (Photo by Pat Blair)

Wyoming's five state supreme court justices talked about the state's court structure, what judges do, and how they make decisions on Tuesday night.

Then they turned their jobs over to five volunteers from the audience at Sheridan College, giving them the chance to rule in a Fourth Amendment case that actually went before the United States Supreme Court.

The volunteers, wearing the black judicial robes of the court, heard arguments in a case that involved a man arrested following a traffic stop, after police found concealed weapons and items associated with a street gang in his car. Police seized a “smart phone” in the man's possession and accessed information on the phone that allegedly tied him to an attempted murder. The defendant's attorney moved to suppress evidence taken from the cell phone, contending that the search violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The Fourth Amendment is the right of people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures unless a search warrant has been issued based on probable cause. A district court judge denied the motion, and the defendant appealed the case to the U.S. high court.

After hearing evidence in the case, the volunteer judges unanimously voted to suppress the cell phone evidence, overturning the lower court decision. Their finding was that the police officers had ample time to get a search warrant and conduct a legal search of the cell phone. Some in the audience disagreed with the ruling, but Wyoming's Chief Justice James Burke said that, in fact, the volunteer justices were in accord with the U.S. court's ruling.

Tuesday was the first of three special judicial programs in Sheridan this week. The state justices will be at Sheridan High School Wednesday morning to hear an actual case, and local district and circuit court judges will be featured in another public “You Be the Judge” program at the college Thursday night.

View more photos below.

Eye Care of the Big Horns
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Sheridan attorney Nick Haderlie, at podium, presents the case for the defense during Tuesday's "You be the Judge":event. (Photo by Pat Blair)
Sheridan attorney Nick Haderlie, at podium, presents the case for the defense during Tuesday's "You be the Judge":event. (Photo by Pat Blair)
Chief Justice James Burke (Photo by Pat Blair)
Chief Justice James Burke (Photo by Pat Blair)
SheridanWyoming.com

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