The Corner

That Wyoming Ruling: There’s Always More than Meets the Eye

I posted yesterday afternoon about a ruling by a federal district court in Wyoming, striking down regulations by which the Obama Interior Department was trying to delay the issuance of drilling leases. The ruling was especially notable, I opined, because it was issued by a judge appointed to the bench by President Obama — Nancy Freudenthal, who is the chief U.S. district judge in Wyoming. 

What I didn’t realize at the time was that Chief Judge Freudenthal is married to Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat who, up until this year, was the governor of Wyoming. I stumbled on this fact in the course of reading more of Michelle Malkin’s diligent reporting on the Obama Interior Department’s aggressive campaign to stifle energy exploration by strangling industry in red tape and process. Turns out that back in 2010, with Interior’s Bureau of Land Management sitting on more than $100 million worth of unissued oil and gas leases, the local press noted that Governor Freudenthal had written to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to urge action on the backlog. 

Governor Freudenthal’s term ended in January of this year (he was replaced by Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican). Governor Freudenthal was an early Obama supporter for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. After Obama was elected, Freudenthal recommended that President Obama nominate his wife — a lawyer with lots of energy and environmental law experience, who was then a partner in a Cheyenne firm — to become a federal judge. She was nominated in 2009 and confirmed in early 2010. There are only three federal judicial slots in Wyoming, and Mrs. Freudenthal filled a vacancy that had been open since 2006 because the Judiciary Committee, once it was under Democratic control, would not give a hearing to President Bush’s nominee, Richard Honaker.

I imagine we will be hearing more about this from the enviro-activists. I am not contending that there is anything improper about all this — I simply don’t know. From what I’ve been able to gather, Governor Freudenthal was urging that the Interior Department act on the leases one way or another, not necessarily that they be granted. Chief Judge Freudenthal’s ruling essentially invalidates the rules on which Interior was relying in order not to act — and by the time she ruled, her husband was no longer governor. On the merits, what the former governor and the judge have done seems appropriate and legally grounded. But it is peculiar to find a wife, as a judge, rendering a decision on a matter in which her husband, as governor, played an active role — seeking action from the government agency against whom the wife ultimately ruled precisely because the agency failed to act.

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