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Addison v. Albany County

Supreme Court of Wyoming

December 31, 2018

KALEY ADDISON, as Personal Representative for the Estate of Scott Alan Addison, Appellant (Petitioner),
ALBANY COUNTY, WYOMING, Appellee (Respondent).

          Appeal from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Tori R.A. Kricken, Judge.

          Representing Appellant: Vaughn Neubauer, Neubauer, Pelkey, Merseal, & Goldfinger, LLP, Laramie, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Edward Britzius, Albany County Attorney's Office, Laramie, Wyoming.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and BURKE [*] , FOX, KAUTZ, and BOOMGAARDEN, JJ.

          BOOMGAARDEN, Justice.

         [¶1] Scott Alan Addison died prior to his criminal trial, while subject to a warrant for his arrest for violation of his bond conditions. His daughter, Kaley Addison, appeals the district court's order affirming the forfeiture of Mr. Addison's $50, 000 cash bond, claiming the doctrine of abatement ab initio applies to the bond forfeiture proceeding. We affirm.


         [¶2] Ms. Addison raises a single issue, which we restate: Does the doctrine of abatement ab initio apply to Mr. Addison's bond forfeiture proceeding?


         [¶3] Appellant Kaley Addison's father, defendant Scott Addison, died December 6, 2017, in an armed confrontation with police in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Mr. Addison died the day after the State filed a motion to revoke his bond and the district court issued a warrant for his arrest, and five days prior to his scheduled criminal trial in Albany County, Wyoming. In March 2017, the State charged Mr. Addison with 25 felony counts: one count of first degree sexual assault, one count of blackmail, two counts of attempted blackmail, one count of felonious restraint, and twenty counts of sexual exploitation of a child. At the time of his death, Mr. Addison was free on a $50, 000 cash appearance bond, which, among other things, limited his travel to Albany and Laramie counties, and prohibited his use of alcohol or controlled substances.[1]

         [¶4] Following Mr. Addison's death, the district court, on the State's motion, ordered Mr. Addison's $50, 000 cash appearance bond forfeited to the State of Wyoming. Shortly thereafter, Kaley Addison filed an objection to the forfeiture order as Mr. Addison's heir, and requested that the district court either set aside the forfeiture order or stay the forfeiture pending appeal. The district court held a hearing during which it received evidence and heard argument regarding bond forfeiture. After the hearing, Mr. Addison's counsel, on behalf of Mr. Addison's estate, filed a motion for abatement ab initio of Mr. Addison's case, including the bond forfeiture order. The district court entered its order affirming forfeiture of Mr. Addison's bond on January 17, 2018. In affirming the bond forfeiture, the district court, inter alia, applied Wyoming Rules of Criminal Procedure 46-46.4 and the seven factors set forth in In re Nw. Bail Bonds, Inc., 2002 WY 102, ¶ 10, 50 P.3d 313, 315-16 (Wyo. 2002) (citing Application of Allied Fid. Ins. Co., 664 P.2d 1322, 1325-26 (Wyo. 1983)) to evaluate whether a bond forfeiture should be set aside, and also considered whether the forfeiture proceeding abated with Mr. Addison's death. Kaley Addison timely appealed the district court's order only as to the court's ruling on the abatement issue.


         [¶5] We review de novo the district court's legal conclusion that the doctrine of abatement ab initio does not apply to bond forfeiture proceedings. Boucher v. State, 2012 WY 145, ¶ 6, 288 P.3d 427, 429 (Wyo. 2012) (citation omitted) (when we are asked to determine whether a court applied the correct rule of law, our review is de novo). Ms. Addison cites State v. Free, 37 Wyo. 188, 260 P. 173 (1927) and Perry v. State, 821 P.2d 1284 (Wyo. 1992) in support of her argument that Wyoming has followed the doctrine of abatement ab initio since 1927 and the district court erred when it held that the doctrine of abatement ab initio no longer applies in Wyoming. According to Ms. Addison, stare decisis requires that we apply that doctrine in this case. She cautions us against departing from settled precedent and emphasizes language from Cook v. State, 841 P.2d 1345, 1353 (Wyo. 1992) that "[s]tare decisis considerations weigh most heavily in cases involving property and contract rights." Ms. Addison fails to acknowledge, however, that this court has only applied the abatement ab initio doctrine to abate a judgment of conviction and all proceedings under such judgment when a criminal defendant died while his appeal was pending and prior to the issuance of this Court's opinion in the appeal. Free, supra; Perry, supra. We have never applied the doctrine to a bond forfeiture proceeding or any proceeding when the defendant died prior to trial. Consequently, whether the doctrine applies under the circumstances of this case is a question of first impression untethered to principles of stare decisis.

         [¶6] The doctrine of abatement ab initio is a common law doctrine in which criminal proceedings are deemed nullified from the beginning for reasons unrelated to the merits of the action. See Free, 260 P. 173; United States v. Davis, 953 F.2d 1482, 1486 (10th Cir. 1992); United States v. Brooks, 872 F.3d 78, 87 (2d Cir. 2017). Application of the doctrine "leaves the deceased defendant 'as if he had never been indicted or convicted'" as to any counts on which a conviction has not yet become final. Brooks, 872 F.3d at 87. A cornerstone of this doctrine is the abatement of a judgment of conviction, in "the interests of finality and just punishment." Id.; see also Free, supra, ("[t]he underlying principle is that the object of all criminal punishment is to punish the one who committed the crime or offense, and not to punish those upon whom his estate is cast, by operation of law or otherwise."). "Finality requires that 'a defendant not stand convicted without resolution of the merits of an appeal', and recognition of the purposes of ...

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