Corporation Owns South Dakota Law?

In his report on his Legislative Interim work, Senator Arthur Rusch (R-17/Vermillion) brings up an issue that I think surfaced in one of our earlier blog discussions: We the People may not own our own laws:

I also attended the South Dakota Code Commission meeting as I represent the Senate on that Commission. The Code Commission is responsible for preparing and publishing the South Dakota Codified Laws (which is a set of books consisting of 40 volumes which contain all of the laws in effect in South Dakota). A set of the codified laws for South Dakota can be found in some libraries and most courthouses. The Commission met with a representative of Thompson [sic] Reuters, the company which has been hired to publish the code and approved a contract with them for next year. We also decided to completely re-publish three of the volumes next year.

The Code Commission also considered a request from the South Dakota State Library to digitize the Code and make it available on line as part of their objective of building an electronic collection of state documents. The Commission was concerned that Thompson Reuter [sic] may have a copyright on the code after 2004 so we gave the State Library permission to digitize the code up to that point and we will investigate whether we have any right to grant permission to the State Library after that point [Senator Arthur Rusch, “Summer Off to Busy Start for Legislators,” Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2016.07.05].

What?! A Canadian corporation owns South Dakota law? Well, that explains the Keystone pipeline….

The Code in question is more detailed than the freely accessible edition of South Dakota Codified Law and the state constitution maintained online by the Legislative Research Council. While the LRC simply publishes the text of law plus enactment and amendment dates with  references to session laws, Thomson Reuters Westlaw publishes a forty-volume hardbound set of the books Marty Jackley will throw at you, complete with cross-references, case law, and law review and journal commentaries. Those hefty tomes represent a great deal of value added by Thomson Reuters Westlaw’s editors, and it is not surprising Thomson Reuters Westlaw would want to copyright and be paid for its efforts.

Nonetheless, the law belongs to the people. Given the searching and cross-referencing every user of the Code needs, it is surprising that the state has not commissioned an electronic, hyperlinked version of the code that every lawmaker, lawyer, and interested citizen could access to have a better understanding of what’s legal and why in South Dakota.

21 Responses to Corporation Owns South Dakota Law?

  1. mike from iowa

    Only seems fair since ALEC has bought and paid for most all wingnuts in South Dakota.

    And your gubmint seems to jump when Trans-Can barks.

  2. Steve Sibson

    I also heard arguments that the United States of America is a corporation:

    The date is February 21, 1871 and the Forty-First Congress is in session. I refer you to the “Acts of the Forty-First Congress,” Section 34, Session III, chapters 61 and 62. On this date in the history of our nation, Congress passed an Act titled: “An Act To Provide A Government for the District of Columbia.” This is also known as the “Act of 1871.” What does this mean? Well, it means that Congress, under no constitutional authority to do so, created a separate form of government for the District of Columbia, which is a ten mile square parcel of land.

    Wasn’t this around the time of the Civil War?

  3. Darin Larson

    Cory, Trump and the GOP love the uneducated. It would not serve their purposes very well to make it easier for people to become self-educated.

  4. Paul Seamans

    I would love to see that on the web. That would have been a big help when we went up against TransCanada at the PUC permit hearings last summer. I should say against TransCanada and the PUC staff lawyers.

  5. Steve Sibson

    “Cory, Trump and the GOP love the uneducated.”

    And they are not alone:

  6. Paul, I wonder if we could get the LRC and the UJS to work together to produce an enhanced listing of statutes online? Perhaps we could fund an additional clerk for the state Supreme Court whose job would be to read through every decision, then work with the LRC webmaster to post crosslinks and relevant excerpts on the SDCL and court pages.

  7. Paul Seamans

    Cory, that is a good idea. A person doesn’t realize how important that stuff is until lawyers start referencing South Dakota Codified Law in a hearing and you’re scrambling to understand what they are talking about.

  8. The complexity of the law is not going to get web published by some clerical staffer. West publishing, and Shepard’s citations in Colorado Springs employ thousands of full blown lawyers to sort thru this sheit…usually the type of lawyers unwilling to actually practice law.

    It ain’t like The Good Wife & freedom ‘n justice ain’t Free. :)

  9. I’d like to hear more from Senator Arthur Rusch on this topic. As I understand it the State owns the intellectual property rights to the laws we enact while the publisher would enjoy its copyright on any related material it creates but I am not a lawyer. Judge Rusch is and while we represent different political parties I respect his input.

  10. Steve Sibson

    Even our state government is a corporation:

    While most of us recognize that lobbyists for major corporations seem to control Washington, few people know that Washington, D.C. is a corporation itself. The so-called ‘federal government’ is actually the Mother Corporation of a vast network of state and local governments and governmental ‘agencies’ that is actually a CORPORATE franchise system.

    To understand, what our ‘government’ really is, we have to review the history that is not in most history books. Did you know that the original ‘organic’ Constitution of 1787 was hijacked just after the Civil War?

    So now we should understand what is the “system of legalized corruption”. And when you liberals grow government, you are actually growing corporations.

  11. Paul, remind me to talk to LRC about that proposal when I get to Pierre!

    Steve, again, irrelevant hobbyhorse. Blah blah blah. Take it to the John Birch meeting.

  12. Steve Sibson

    “irrelevant hobbyhorse”

    Sad that you would resort to name calling in order to avoid the issue. The excerpt straight out of the South Dakota constitution refers to cities as corporations:

    “The property of the United States and of the state, county and municipal corporations, both real and personal, shall be exempt from taxation”

    And the public schools are corporations:

    “The Legislature shall make such provision by general taxation and by authorizing the school corporations to levy such additional taxes as with the income from the permanent school fund shall secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state.”

  13. Douglas Wiken

    City incorporation process and business incorporation process are the same, Steve?

    I find a bunch of wingnut right conspiracy sites claiming the US is not a government but a corporation. This must be another sinister conspiracy theory of the kind that Trump exploits with his wilder statements.

  14. Douglas Wiken

    More to the point of the discussion, this controversy over ownership of SD law goes back something between 20 and 40 years. It is not a new problem. It should have been fixed years ago.

  15. Steve Sibson

    “bunch of wingnut right conspiracy sites”

    Sad that you would resort to name-calling instead of dealing with the issue. Of course the International bankers who own the corporation is happy that most don’t believe the truth. That way those One Percenters can just keep milking away uninterrupted.

  16. Douglas Wiken

    Lame response Steve. If I were actually name-calling, I would be calling you names. I am not doing that and neither did previous posters. Get over yourself.

  17. Douglas, how long has Thomson Reuters Westlaw (or whatever pieces of the conglomeration preceded them) held the contract on our code? Would any publisher take the contract on the condition that South Dakota retains the copyright?

  18. Don Coyote

    @ Steve Sibson: “Well, it means that Congress, under no constitutional authority to do so, created a separate form of government for the District of Columbia, which is a ten mile square parcel of land.”

    Actually Congress does have explicit Constitutional authority.

    Art 1, Sec 8: To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States,


    Art 4: The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State

  19. Troy Jones

    I mostly agree with Doug but maybe not his conclusion.

    What the publisher “owns” is the legal research, references, and notes. Sometime in the 80’s, I recall this very issue coming up (long-time ago and it wasn’t my area so my memory might be a bit off).

    I don’t remember who advocated it was (Bar, citizens groups, people who represent themselves, I don’t remember) but someone advocated for basically what is proposed above and for it be be paid for and maintained by State and maintained/housed either at AG, Courts, Bar, Secretary of State, or LRC (don’t remember).

    Anyway, it died for two reasons:

    1) It was deemed an expensive subsidy of attorney’s as the cost would be born by the taxpayers.
    2) And, more importantly (to which I think Mark is alluding to) is the law is the law, rulings are rulings, but much of the analysis/cross references/interpretations are not authoritative. Kinda like how Wiki is useful be users are to be critical of the information with regard to reliability. I think it was the Courts who weighed in and said State-paying for it would give the analysis/interpretations an air of authority they don’t deserve.

    Mark, you are the lawyer. I’m not so if anything I said doesn’t make sense go ahead and correct the record. Won’t hurt my feelings as my memory is definitely not infallible.

  20. Hmmm… the taxpayers are still bearing the cost of the hardcover Code. Aren;’t we simply subsidizing Thomson Reuters and their legal team? If the analysis, cross references, and interpretations they provide are not authoritative, does it make any difference if we pay an in-house/in-state team to do it and put it online for everyone to enjoy?

    Suppose we created the online annotated Code in a quasi-wiki style: set up a Code wiki, but allow only authorized users—e.g., UJS and LRC personnel, bar-certified lawyers, political science profs at South Dakota universities, and maybe, just maybe, second-year law students at USD—to create and edit pages. Certain pages/sections would be locked in—no one but LRC could alter text on the actual pages showing statute and constitution, and no one could alter the text of UJS decisions—but all users could add hyperlinks, commentary, and other annotations. Would that be any more risky than the current system of posting the statutes online, where bloggers and other yahoos can read it and make their own best guess as to the meaning, recognizing that if they go to court, they’d still better get a lawyer to nail down the interpretation for them?

  21. Steve Sibson

    “respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States”

    United states the corporation? What Cory is posting is just the tip of the iceberg:

    A corporation is simply an entity which makes its own rules for its own employees and for its own structural operation. The US government, which is on a ten acre parcel of property in Washington D.C. (District of Columbia), outside the United States of America is a corporation that has taken on the role of a quasi-government, but which has no legal authority to do so.

    This Awareness indicates that any action whereby this quasi-corporation known as the United States Federal Government attempts to make laws, to impose laws on the states or on the people that have not been authorized by the states of the people, operates illegally. This Awareness indicates that any of the states or the people who give their allegiance, and give their rights to such a quasi-government are doing so illegally. Anyone who volunteers to let such a foreign entity control their lives is volunteering their freedom away illegally, and this is where changes will soon begin to occur, and where entities will begin to recognize a breech in the relationship between the people, the states, and the quasi-government in Washington D.C.

    The Federal government, which is foreign to the United States of America, which is located in the District of Columbia, which is not part of the United States and which is in fact controlled to a great extent by the international bankers and by the laws and rules of the United Nations, whereby this Federal Washington D.C. state or country, has set itself up as a control over the United States of America as a quasi-government.