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Big Pharma Lawyers Subpoena 16 IM 26 Petition Drivers… and Facebook!

The Big Pharma lawyers suing to remove Initiated Measure 26, the prescription drug price cap, from the November ballot have subpoenaed sixteen people involved with the petition drive to give depositions at the Redstone Law Firm office in downtown Sioux Falls this week.

According to subpoenas filed May 24–25, Big Pharma is demanding that the following people talk to their lawyers at the given dates and times:

FName LName Date + Time
Clara Hart 6/4 8
Melissa Bennett 6/4 10
*Jenny Shearer 6/4 10
Sean Morck 6/4 13
Leeann Fjellanger 6/4 15
Ann Westberry 6/5 8
Chera Rosa de Sharon 6/5 13
Aden Behre 6/5 15
John Fiksdal 6/6 8
Media One, Inc 6/6 9
Jenny Shearer 6/6 10
Cameron Markwardt 6/6 10
*Melissa Bennett 6/6 10
Vanessa Torres-Lopez 6/6 13
Zackeriah Stacey 6/6 15
Drey Samuelson 6/7 8
Lori Stacey 6/7 10
Angel Meleah Boyd 6/7 13
Vaughn Blaschke 6/7 15

(*Bennett and Shearer each were sent two subpoenas. Their unasterisked entries give the dates their first subpoenas demanded their appearance. The asterisked entries give the dates specified on their second subpoenas.)

Torres-Lopez, Boyd, Blaschke, and both Staceys were named in Big Pharma’s initial complaint as petition circulators who could not be found at the addresses they gave on their circulators’ oaths.

Clara Hart is the ballot question committee sponsor and committee chair. Drey Samuelson is Rick Weiland’s, the group that promoted the prescription drug price cap petition drive. John Fiksdal runs Media One and helped organize circulators. Morck, Fjellanger, Westberry, Behre are also listed as circulators in Big Pharma’s court documents. I’m not sure where Bennett and Shearer fit into this picture.

Big Pharma’s investigators also named Manuel Hatchett as a circulator who didn’t show up at his listed address, but the Redstone lawyers appear not to have subpoenaed him.

Big Pharma’s investigators named four other circulators—Quintus Cornish, Michael S. Brenes, Mark Rohrbaugh, and Gary Robinson—as potential illegal non-resident circulators. Redstone appears not to have subpoenaed them, either. Instead, Redstone is subpoenaing Facebook to pull the IP logs of those individuals’ apparent Facebook accounts and turn over the IP addresses and dates of any accessing of those four accounts since September 1, 2016:

If Facebook does surrender this IP information, Redstone will still want to review precedent in which courts have held that “standing alone, the fact that an electronic communication appears on its face to be sent from a particular person’s social media account is generally insufficient to authenticate who sent the communication.”

These subpoenas should trouble advocates of direct democracy. Big Pharma is signaling that if South Dakotans dare to circulate a ballot question petition that challenges wealthy corporate interests, those wealthy corporations will snoop on, subpoena, depose, and otherwise legally pester those petitioners for their anti-corporate activism.


  1. Donald Pay 2018-06-05 17:01

    It’s pretty clear they have no case, and they are fishing. They pretty close to barratry. Maybe someone should turn these guys in to the AG.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-05 18:29

    SOS Krebs filed her response on June 1. She rejects the bulk of Big Pharma’s claims and says the petition is legit. I’ll post that response and some analysis in a separate post.

  3. Teresa 2018-06-05 18:42

    wow. Who is Joni Johnson exactly …and who is/are ‘South Dakotans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue’?

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-05 20:30

    Joni Johnson is exec of the South Dakota Biotechnology Association and chair of the ballot question committee that several pharmaceutical companies are supporting financially to challenge IM 26 at every turn. They filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General’s explanation last fall that a judge threw out just last month. Even as they were losing that lawsuit, JOhnson and Big Pharma had the current petition challenge in the works.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-05 20:35

    Since forming last fall, the committee has received $2.6 million from pharmaceutical companies Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novo-Nordisk, Astella Pharma US, Sunovion, Boehringer Ingelheim, Sanofi US Services, Abraxis Biosciences, Johnson & Johnson, Takeda, UCB, Allergan, Novartis, Wyeth, and LillyUSA. Read more on their campaign finance reporting page via the SOS:

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-05 20:38

    Big Pharma’s committee has spent over $920K against IM26, most likely entirely on these two lawsuits… meaning lawyers Matt McCaulley, Lisa Prostrollo, and Jon Hansen (also a candidate for District 25 House) and the PIs who went banging on the above circulators’ doors are making a crap-ton of money.

  7. Donald Pay 2018-06-05 21:10

    One time my ex and I got hauled into some depositions. It was over the ETSI pipeline in a lawsuit filed by the state against the railroads. They asked us questions about who we met with. My wife gave them nothing, refused to answer some of their questions. They threatened her with jail, but never followed through. I used my time in the hot seat to accuse them of trying to find out how we were organizing to stop Janklow’s nuclear waste dump. I kept coming back to that whenever they would ask me a question about ETSI. Hell, ETSI was dead. We were on to fighting the next Janklow corruption. They didn’t threaten me with jail, I guess because no matter how smart ass I was being I was still answering their questions. Did I talk to the railroad guys? “No.” Did I receive any money from the railroad guys? “No, but I wish I did.” It was fun. Have a blast eff-ing with these people. Be honest, though.

  8. Donald Pay 2018-06-05 21:38

    What they may ask is this: Did you ask every person whether they were a registered voter? “Yes, I believe I did.” Well, the signer here, is not a registered voter. Can you explain that? “That is your representation, and I can’t explain how you are representing things. You are being paid a lot of money to question me about this aren’t you?” Did you check to see if every signer is registered to vote? “That is not required of a circulator of a petition, as you know, so ask that again and I will consider that harassment.” Did you ever sign someone’s name on your petition? “No, that is not allowed, and I would never do that.” Well, this here is in your handwriting, is it not? “Yes, but that is not a signature. That is a printed name. Circulators are allowed to fill in information in certain boxes. For example, there may be an elderly or disabled person who has difficulty filling out all that information. Circulators help those people exercise their rights to petition for redress of grievances, such as the high cost of medication. You wouldn’t want to take away constitutional rights of elderly and disabled people would you?” Did you witness every signature? “Yes” We have a sworn statement from Person B saying he signed this petition when no one was around. How do you explain that? “I would explain that by saying the organization you represent has lots of money to pay someone to lie, or to threaten people. I, however, cannot be bought, threatened, harassed or bullied. I was always within a few feet of each signer.”

    Don’t be afraid to stick it right up their ass while being honest.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-05 22:05

    Great advice, Donald… but we can’t get nailed for tampering with witnesses if we share this brief with the subpoenaed circulators… can we?

  10. Dale Zoybe 2018-06-05 22:09

    If you want justice in South Dakota, you have to hire MN Lawyers, just ask Laura. Why is that? GOBC – Good Ole Boys Club.

  11. Donald Pay 2018-06-05 22:16

    No. I’m sure a real attorney would advise someone to just answer the question and not be a smart ass. People should probably take an attorney in, if they want to protect themselves.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-05 23:12

    Dale, I’m starting to get that impression. Stop making me think I need to get a law degree.

  13. Dale Zoybe 2018-06-05 23:44

    Kristi just won, New on KELO – Pat owes me a case of Crown Royal – just give it to Gene, I love this state and hope we can turn it around, and Cory – I think you can get a law degree online in 2 years, $250???

  14. Donald Pay 2018-06-06 09:43

    There are some good lawyers in SD. Obviously, Pat Duffy was the best. Most, however, don’t have deep pockets and can’t do a lot of pro bono work for what I call “cause work.” Pat did a tremendous amount of work for people who couldn’t pay the entire bill.

    What SD needs is some deep pockets legal foundation to foot the bill for some of this work defending grassroots democracy from the oligarchy and the autocrats. The monied interests have long used SLAPP suits against grassroots groups and activists. SLAPP stands for Selective Lawsuits Against Public Participation, which allow the elite to bully the majority of the population around.

    In South Dakota there is a law against barratry. It was originally passed to deal with the right wing nuts who were filing bogus lawsuits to try to bully public figures. This Big Pharma lawsuit is a similar sort of bullying suit, but aimed at grassroots citizens in South Dakota. Just because Big Pharma has the money to hire a bunch of Republican apparatchiks in suits to file these bogus lawsuits doesn’t dress up this bullying barratry.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-06 10:13

    Barratry—I had to look that up! (One step closer to passing the bar exam….) SDCL 20-9-6.1 defines barratry as “the assertion of a frivolous or malicious claim or defense or the filing of any document with malice or in bad faith by a party in a civil action.” A barratry victim files a pleading in the civil action they feel is barratrous. But in this case, since the only named defendant is SOS Krebs, is she the only party who could file a barratry pleading?

  16. mike fom iowa 2018-06-06 10:16

    Barratry? Did the definition include a picture of Larry Klayman?

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