Laramie’s new municipal judge, Dona Playton, said she spent decades studying and practicing law in Wyoming before accepting a contract with the city.
During the Laramie City Council regular meeting Tuesday, the council approved Playton’s contract as the city’s new municipal judge.
When asked about the employment status of Laramie’s previous municipal judge, Joshua Merseal, Mayor Andi Summerville said the city council does not comment on personnel matters.
The Rawlins City Council appointed Merseal as the Rawlins Municipal Court judge Tuesday.
“We are happy to welcome Dona Playton back to the Laramie community to take up the role of municipal judge,” Summerville said. “She comes to us with not only outstanding credentials, but also strong knowledge and love of our community.”
Playton is slated to begin Monday.
Born in Laramie, Playton, 50, moved to Jackson with her family during her high school years before returning to attend the University of Wyoming. But even at an early age, she said she knew she was interested in the legal system.
“I did intern in the Legislature when I was in high school, and I think that probably piqued my interest in law,” Playton said. “As an intern, I lived at the Hitching Post Inn for two months, so I was able to see all aspects of the legislative process.”
At UW, Playton studied political science before earning a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice and heading to paralegal school San Diego. But after a year in California, she said she decided to return to UW’s college of law for her juris doctorate.
“I think it was a process to figure out that I wanted to do it,” Playton said, explaining her time abroad before deciding to become a lawyer.
After graduating from UW, Playton said she worked at the Wyoming attorney general’s office before moving into private practice and working at three different law firms in Laramie.
“Wyoming is where my heart is,” Playton said. “It’s where my family and friends are.”
In 2002, Playton established the UW College of Law Family and Child Legal Advocacy Clinic and has taught at UW for 17 years, she said. She has also worked with the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault throughout her career.
“I like helping people who otherwise would not be able to find legal assistance,” Playton said. “I’ve always had an interest in ensuring everybody — regardless of income — has equal access to the legal system.”
On becoming Laramie’s new municipal judge, she said, “I think it’s just another perspective to add to my legal experience.”
The Laramie Municipal Court has control or jurisdiction of all misdemeanor violations of city of Laramie ordinances and adopted Wyoming State Statutes within city limits, the city of Laramie website states.
Typically, the court processes citations issued by the Laramie Police Department or the UW Police Department. Most of the citations reviewed in municipal court are traffic related, Playton said.
“I think the Municipal Court is a place where a lot of people in our community — if they have experience with the legal system — find themselves,” Playton said. “I want it to be a respectful place, open to everybody and I want people to think the process is fair.”