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Gunsch v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

July 24, 2019

GORDON JAMES GUNSCH, Appellant (Petitioner),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Respondent).

          Appeal from the District Court of Fremont County The Honorable Norman E. Young, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Katherine A. Strike, Stanbury & Strike, P.C., Lander, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee:Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Deputy Attorney General; Jessica Frint, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

          GRAY, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Appellant Gordon James Gunsch obtained an order granting him relief from the requirement to register as a sex offender. The State subsequently moved to vacate the order pursuant to W.R.C.P. Rule 60(b)(1). The district court granted the W.R.C.P. Rule 60(b) motion and revived Mr. Gunsch's registration requirement. Mr. Gunsch appeals. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] We consolidate the parties' arguments into a single issue:

Did the district court abuse its discretion when it granted the State's motion for relief under W.R.C.P. Rule 60(b)?

         FACTS

         [¶3] In 1990, Mr. Gunsch was convicted of incest as an adult and was required to register as a sex offender.[1] Later, in 2008, he received three years of unsupervised probation after being convicted on two counts of failing to meet this obligation. Since 2008, he has registered as required and has had no other conviction for any misdemeanor or felony offense.

         [¶4] In June of 2018, Mr. Gunsch petitioned the district court to terminate his duty to register as a sex offender under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-19-304(a)(i).[2] Mr. Gunsch claimed that he met the statutory requirements-he continuously registered for at least ten years, maintained a "clean record" for ten years, and, for his specific crime, he was an offender "adjudicated as a delinquent." (Emphasis added.) The petition alleged the reporting requirement was a substantial burden because of Mr. Gunsch's age (64), numerous health problems (including legal blindness, ambulatory challenges, and kidney failure), and the inconvenience to his spouse (also his caregiver). The State urged the district court to deny relief based on the egregious nature of Mr. Gunsch's incest conviction and his subsequent convictions for failure to register. However, it conceded Mr. Gunsch "appears to meet the statutory requirements for termination of his duty to register as a sex offender pursuant to W.S. § 7-19-304(a)(i)."

         [¶5] The district court entered its "Order Terminating Duty to Register" on July 13, 2018, finding Mr. Gunsch "meets all statutory requirements set forth in Wyoming Statute § 7-19-304(a)(i) and (d), and, therefore, is eligible for relief under the same." Ten days later, the State filed a W.R.C.P. Rule 60 motion alleging Mr. Gunsch was not eligible for relief from the duty to register because he was convicted of incest as an adult and not "adjudicated as a delinquent." Based on this mistake, the State asked the district court to vacate its "Order Terminating Duty to Register" and deny the Petition for Termination of Duty to Register.

         [¶6] The district court granted the motion and entered the Order that is the subject of this appeal ("Order Granting State's W.R.C.P. 60 Motion for Relief from Order Terminating Duty to Register"). It found that Mr. Gunsch was not statutorily eligible for termination because he was "not adjudicated as [a] delinquent for a violation of that statute; rather, he was convicted [of incest] as an adult." The court concluded it "had no subject matter jurisdiction, and it was error on ...


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