Activists' lawyers: Sheriff should defend anti-protest laws

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom wants to be dismissed from lawsuit concerning South Dakota's recently enacted "riot boosting" law. (MGN / PCSO)
By  | 

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Attorneys for oil pipeline opponents are fighting an attempt by a South Dakota sheriff to be dismissed from a lawsuit challenging new state laws that aim to prevent disruptive demonstrations against the Keystone XL pipeline.

They say in a Tuesday court filing Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom should remain a defendant in the suit spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union because he'll be enforcing law that amounts to an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.

Thom's attorneys say he must enforce state laws but isn't responsible for defending them. Plaintiffs' attorneys counter that Thom must use personal discretion in enforcing the laws, effectively making him a policymaker.

The legislation pushed through by Republican leaders allows officials to pursue money from demonstrators who encourage violence during a riot.

Supporters hope to avoid a repeat of massive and costly protests in North Dakota against the Dakota Access pipeline.