South Dakota Supreme Court denies release of special session vote on AG impeachment

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 1:43 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled against the Argus Leader and South Dakota Newspaper Association (SDNA) after they sued House Speaker Spencer Gosch.

The newspaper and newspaper association sued Speaker Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham) for keeping secret the list of state lawmakers who signed a petition to have a special legislative session to consider impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.

The lawsuit alleged Gosch violated the state’s open records law when he “refused” to release the list of lawmakers. The lawsuit also details Gosch was unresponsive to requests from the Argus Leader to obtain the list.

The lawsuit requested the South Dakota Supreme Court to intervene immediately to force the release of the list of lawmakers and to also stop the special session from taking place until the litigation is resolved.

“Applicants have a plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law to seek the public disclosure of the name of the members of the House of Representatives who signed the petition,” Chief Justice Steven Jensen wrote in his two-page opinion.

Gosch has declined to disclose the names of House lawmakers who signed the petition to several media outlets. Additionally, Gosch has also declined to share how many lawmakers signed on.

Gosch said that he wouldn’t necessarily dissuade state lawmakers from disclosing whether or not they personally signed onto the petition.

“I’m still staying with the same position that I have always stayed with. They are individual leaders in their communities and their districts, and that is up to them. If they choose to, then that is great. If they choose not to, that is also great. It is completely up to the individual.”

MORE: South Dakota House has signatures to proceed with impeachment special session

The South Dakota House of Representatives has received more than the necessary 47 signatures to proceed with a special session to debate the impeachment of Ravnsborg.

SDNA points out that this case could’ve helped create more clarity around what is, and isn’t, open records around the state legislature.

“It is very important to know clearly, whether open records and open meeting laws in South Dakota do apply to the legislature,” Bordewyk said. “This could be a case where we can get some determination on that.”

The impeachment hearings will be open to the public. They are set to begin on November 9th, or immediately following the conclusion of the special session finalizing redistricting.

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