CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Supreme Court on Monday upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by former state schools superintendent Cindy Hill over comments a U.S. House candidate made about her during a campaign in 2016.

Hill had contended in her lawsuit that Tim Stubson made malicious and false statements about her. Stubson lost in the Republican primary that year to Liz Cheney, who eventually won the seat in the general election.

The unanimous Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Michael Davis, said Hill did not present sufficient arguments to back up her case.

Stubson, of Casper, welcomed the decision for upholding First Amendment rights to free speech.

"I think it's important, not just obviously for me, but it's important for the state that there's a clear decision out there that you can criticize public officials for the way they do their jobs and not be punished for it through the courts," Stubson said in a telephone interview.

Hill issued a statement, saying Stubson lied about her.

"The ruling avoids addressing whether Mr. Stubson lied," she said. "It is decided on technical grounds, not on the basis of the false information that he stated. If Mr. Stubson lies about me again, I will sue him again."

The comments by Stubson concerned the controversy over removing Hill as administrator of the state Education Department while she was state superintendent of public instruction from 2010 through 2014. Stubson was a member of the Legislature in 2013 when a law was passed and signed by Gov. Matt Mead, removing the state superintendent as head of the agency.

The law was passed after high-ranking lawmakers and Mead clashed with Hill over how she was running the department. Stubson was among those who supported removing Hill.

Stubson's comments during the U.S. House campaign included a remark that Hill had committed "illegal" acts while she was superintendent.

Hill challenged the 2013 law, and a divided Wyoming Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional.

Hill later challenged Mead in the 2014 GOP primary and lost.