BRUCE HAYSE, M.D. and PAUL CASSIDY, Appellants (Petitioners),
WYOMING BOARD OF CORONER STANDARDS, Appellee (Respondent).
from the District Court of Teton County The Honorable Timothy
C. Day, Judge
Representing Appellants: Frank R. Chapman and Patrick J.
Lewallen, Chapman Valdez & Lansing, Casper, Wyoming;
Deidre J. Bainbridge, Attorney at Law, Jackson, Wyoming.
Argument by Mr. Lewallen.
Representing Appellee: Bridget L. Hill, Attorney General;
Michael J. McGrady, Deputy Attorney General. Argument by Mr.
DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.
This case arises from an ongoing dispute over the Teton
County Coroner's alleged misconduct during a
coroner's inquest. We affirmed the district court's
dismissal of a related action seeking to set aside the
coroner's inquest verdict in In re Birkholz,
2019 WY 19, 434 P.3d 1102 (Wyo. 2019). While that action was
pending, Paul Cassidy and Dr. Bruce Hayse requested that the
Board of Coroner Standards (Board) investigate the
coroner's alleged misconduct. The Board refused to
investigate, and the district court affirmed its refusal. We
We decide the following dispositive issue:
Does the Board of Coroner Standards have authority to review
complaints alleging that a coroner committed misconduct while
conducting an inquest?
In their previous action, Paul Cassidy and Dr. Bruce Hayse
alleged that Teton County Coroner, Dr. Brent Blue, committed
misconduct during a coroner's inquest into the death of
Anthony Lee Birkholz. See generally In re Birkholz,
2019 WY 19, 434 P.3d 1102. They also sought to have the Board
of Coroner Standards investigate Dr. Blue's alleged
misconduct. The Board refused to investigate the inquest,
concluding that it did not have statutory authority to do so.
The Board asserted that under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-4-211
its "narrow purpose . . . is to develop and promulgate
training standards" and "enforce compliance with
those standards." Mr. Cassidy and Dr. Hayse responded,
arguing that "the Board is charged with establishing
coroner's standards dealing with the investigation of
coroner's cases" and "has the authority to
enforce those standards[.]" The Board again declined to
investigate the inquest. On petition for judicial review, the
district court affirmed the Board's refusal to
investigate. Mr. Cassidy and Dr. Hayse timely appealed.
We review an agency decision "as if it came directly
from the administrative agency" and give no deference to
the district court's decision on appeal. State ex
rel. Dep't of Workforce Servs. v. Williams, 2018 WY
10, ¶ 23, 409 P.3d 1219, 1226 (Wyo. 2018) (citing
Price v. State ex rel. Dep't of Workforce Servs.,
Workers' Comp. Div., 2017 WY 16, ¶ 7, 388 P.3d
786, 789 (Wyo. 2017)). We review an agency's conclusions
of law de novo. Casiano v. State ex rel. Wyo. Dep't
of Transp., 2019 WY 16, ¶ 8, 434 P.3d 116, 120
(Wyo. 2019) (citing Lietz v. State ex rel. Dep't of
Family Servs., 2018 WY 127, ¶ 11, 430 P.3d 310, 314
(Wyo. 2018)). The issue of whether the Board has authority to
review complaints that a coroner committed misconduct while
conducting an inquest requires us to interpret Wyo. Stat.
Ann. § 7-4-211. "Statutory interpretation raises
questions of law, which we review de novo."
Camacho v. State ex rel. Dep't of Workforce Servs.,
Workers' Comp. Div., 2019 WY 92, ¶ 17, 448 P.3d
834, 841 (Wyo. 2019) (quoting State ex rel. Wyo.
Workers' Safety & Comp. Div. v. Smith, 2013 WY
26, ¶ 9, 296 P.3d 939, 941-42 (Wyo. 2013)).
Mr. Cassidy and Dr. Hayse argue that Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
7-4-211(c)(vi) requires the Board to review complaints of
coroner misconduct, and presumably to take some sort of
action in response to any misconduct. The Board responds that
the "Legislature limited the Board's authority to
investigating whether a coroner has completed basic education
and training requirements, it did not authorize the Board to
investigate the day-to-day actions of a duly elected county
Our goal in interpreting statutes is to give effect to the
legislature's intent. Wyo. Jet Ctr., LLC v. Jackson
Hole Airport Bd., 2019 WY 6, ¶ 12, 432 P.3d 910,
915 (Wyo. 2019) (citing PacifiCorp, Inc. v. Wyo.
Dep't of Rev., 2017 WY 106, ¶ 10, 401 P.3d 905,
908-09 (Wyo. 2017)). We attempt to determine legislative
intent based primarily on the plain and ordinary meaning of
the words used in the statute. Wyo. Jet Ctr., 2019
WY 6, ¶ 12, 432 P.3d at 915. "Where legislative
intent is discernible a court should give effect to the
'most likely, most reasonable, interpretation of the
statute, given its design and purpose.'"
Id. (quoting Adekale v. State, 2015 WY 30,
¶ 12, 344 P.3d 761, 765 (Wyo. 2015)). Further, we
construe each statutory provision in pari materia,
giving effect to every word, clause, and sentence according
to their arrangement and connection. To ascertain the meaning
of a given law, we also consider all statutes relating to the
same subject or having the same general purpose and strive to
interpret them harmoniously. We presume that the legislature
has acted in a thoughtful and rational manner with full
knowledge of existing law, and that it intended new statutory
provisions to be read in harmony with existing law and as
part of an overall and uniform system of jurisprudence. When
the words used convey a specific and obvious meaning, we need
not go farther and engage in statutory construction.
Wyo. Jet Ctr., 2019 WY 6, ¶ 12, 432 P.3d at
915. Applying these rules, we conclude that the Board does
not have authority to investigate allegations of coroner
Mr. Cassidy and Dr. Hayse rely on Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
7-4-211 for their assertion the Board has that authority.
Section 211 creates the Board of Coroner Standards and
outlines its duties. Subsection (c) directs the Board to