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Williams v. Matheny

Supreme Court of Wyoming

July 14, 2017

BRUCE B. WILLIAMS, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
SCOTT MATHENY, as Campbell County Sheriff, Appellee (Defendant).

         Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable John R. Perry, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Pro se.

          Representing Appellee: Carol Seeger, Campbell County Attorney's Office.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, and KAUTZ, JJ., and CRANFILL, D.J.

          CRANFILL, District Judge.

         [¶1] Mr. Williams submitted a Public Records Request to the Campbell County Sheriff's office requesting a list of the "weapons and or offensive/defensive implements carried on the persons of any officers" involved with the killing of Niki Jo Burtsfield as well as "implements normally carried in an officer[']s vehicle." The Sheriff's office timely responded. Mr. Williams believed he was not provided all of the documents he requested, and made further inquiry. After some additional discussion between Mr. Williams and the Sheriff's office, Mr. Williams filed a "Petition for Reasonable Response Pursuant to § 16-4-202(b) & (c)." The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant, Scott Matheny, as Campbell County Sheriff. Mr. Williams appeals, requesting that he be allowed to physically inspect the original records. He raises several arguments for the first time on appeal, which we do not consider. Because the issues are moot, we affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] Mr. Williams states the following issues on appeal verbatim:

1. Must the public accept the statement that there are no more documents responsive to a [public records request] if the government entity has no method to physically show the likelihood that they are telling the truth?
2. Does W.S. 16-4-202(a) when it says ". . . reasonably necessary for the protection of the records and the prevention of unnecessary interference with the regular discharge of the duties . . ." allow the official custodian to keep public records completely physically isolated from the public?
3. Does W.S. 16-4 (sic) allow the custodian of records to require that ". . . request must be an identifiable record that exists in physical form . . ." or similar wording?
4. There is no concept in W.S. 16-4 (sic) that requires me to access public records using only Public Records Requests forms/paper requests and getting a copy of the record.

         This Court restates the issue as follows:

         1. Did the district court properly determine Mr. Williams' complaint was moot, dismissing the complaint after the Sheriff moved for summary judgment?

         FACTS

         [¶3] On September 22, 2015, Mr. Williams submitted a public records request to the Campbell County Sheriff's office (Sheriff's office). Mr. Williams requested:

[A] list of the weapons and or offensive/defensive implements carried on the persons of any officers at the scene and involved with the situation which resulted in the killing of Niki Jo Burtsfield.
This is also a request for a list of the weapons and or offensive/defensive implements normally carried in an officer[']s vehicle on the date of the killing of Niki Jo Burtsfield.

         [¶4] The Sheriff's office timely responded with the "Annual Patrol Equipment Inventory" of each of the officers involved; Deputies Jeff Mooney, Murel Brink, Ed Holden, Brittany Van Zee, and Corporal Scott Appley.[1] Mr. Williams believed the equipment inventory to be responsive only to the first half of his request, and he waited for the rest of the information.

         [¶5] On Friday, October 23, 2015, Mr. Williams returned to the Sheriff's office and verbally requested a list of the items carried on the officers' person. Mr. Williams was provided with General Order 302 (G.O. 302), which is an equipment inventory from the Campbell County Sheriff's Office Policy and Procedure Manual.

         [¶6] The Deputy Campbell County Attorney assigned to assist with legal issues of the Sheriff's department, learned that the officers' weapons were purchased personally, and that the make, model and serial number were on the bi-annual qualification sheets of each officer. This information was provided to Mr. Williams.

         [¶7] On October 29, 2015, Mr. Williams filed a "Petition for Reasonable Response Pursuant to § 16-4-202(b) & (c)" in district court, regarding his request to the Sheriff's office. He requested that the Sheriff or his "appointed representative do one of the following:"

A. Give me a copy of whatever they have that would answer what I have ...

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