CHEYENNE — Gov. Matt Mead said he chose someone with high ethics who respects the lawmaking process when he made Laramie County District Judge Michael K. Davis his first appointment to the Wyoming Supreme Court on Thursday.
Mead said he didn’t ask the nominees how they would rule on specific cases, but, “I do want to know that they have respect for the laws, who makes the laws, that they don’t have any beliefs from whatever source that will prevent them from enforcing the laws as written.
“I think that in Wyoming, we got a good history of judges who have full respect of the Legislature’s work and understand that there are three separate but equal branches of government.”
Mead named Davis to succeed Justice Michael Golden on the five-member court.
Golden is retiring effective Sept. 30. Within the next month, he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 set in the state Constitution.
Davis said in a statement released by Mead’s office that he was honored by the appointment and vowed to work hard to serve the state and its residents. Davis was presiding over a case Thursday afternoon and was not immediately available for comment, according to his staff.
State Supreme Court justices serve eight-year terms, but a new justice is subjected to a statewide vote in the general election following the first year. If the justice is retained by voters, the justice will serve out the remainder of the term before facing retention votes every eight years thereafter.
Mead said he viewed the appointment as a “critical mission for me,” noting that the nominees he interviewed shared his view of its importance.
“They even mention that if you’re on the Supreme Court for 10, or 20, or 25 years, the impact that you have on the state of Wyoming in many ways may be greater than multiple governors have because that’s how important that job is,” Mead said in a telephone interview from Tampa, Fla., where he was attending the Republican National Convention.
Davis received his law degree from the University of Wyoming and was an associate and then partner at the Yonkee and Toner law firm in Sheridan from 1980 to 2008. He was appointed district judge in 2008 by former Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat.
Davis was one of three nominees for the Supreme Court submitted to Mead by the state Judicial Nominating Commission, which is chaired by Chief Justice Marilyn S. Kite. The other nominees were Converse County District Judge John C. Brooks and Goshen County District Judge Keith G. Kautz.
Mead said he found all three nominees to be exceptional candidates when he interviewed them last weekend.
“There’s a specific skill set, and you’re looking for somebody honestly with the highest ethics possible, somebody that is a real student of the law in terms of research and writing because I want a Supreme Court justice who really delves into issues and has the ability and the passion to do that at the highest level,” he said.