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Judge Makes SD Pay $619K to Lawyers Who Won Lib/Con Ballot Access Case

My fellow South Dakotans, you and I now each owe the South Dakota Libertarian and Constitution parties 71 cents.

Back in February, the state lost a lawsuit by the Libertarian and Constitution parties, who successfully argued, with the help of the ACLU, that South Dakota’s March deadline for forming new political parties violated their constitutional rights to ballot access. Of course, who really pays when our Legislature and Executive Branch choose to ignore good legal advice and pigheadedly discriminate against new parties to preserve the Republican lock on power? We taxpayers do. On Tuesday, Judge Lawrence Piersol ruled that we taxpayers need to pay the winning parties legal bills, to the tune of $619,584.30:

“South Dakota’s restrictions for third political parties to access the ballot were clearly unconstitutional. The ACLU suggested that we settle this case almost immediately after it was filed, when there would have been, at most, a small claim to fees,” said Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota. “But the state declined. Now, taxpayers are ultimately footing the bill because the state decided to defend ballot restrictions that were some of the harshest in the nation and clearly unnecessary” [American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, press release, 2018.10.04].

The state had multiple opportunities to avoid this expense. As late as this February, Judge Piersol signaled that the Legislature could pass one bill to make the lawsuit go away, but the Legislature dragged its feet, hoping legal minds would differ in their favor. That stubborn gambling costs you, me, and the guy under the leaf-shedding tree 71 cents each.

Neither the Libertarians nor the Constitutionists gain more than a moral victory from this six-figure award. On Monday, Judge Roberto Lange ruled against both Lora Hubbel and Terry LaFleur’s effort to stop the presses, throw out thousands of cast absentee votes, and print new ballots with someone, anyone, listed as a CP (C is for “Chaos”) candidate for governor. And even if the Libertarians could get over their aversion to tax dollars and accept any taxpayer-funded damages to back their gubernatorial candidate, Kurt Evans, they’re out of luck. The money pays the lawyers for their hard work. Lawyers from Robins Kaplan who helped, Brendan Johnson and Tim Billion, are donating their share to the ACLU. Enjoy.


  1. El Rayo X 2018-10-05

    Before I cough up my $.71, may I please see an itemized bill ?

  2. grudgenutz 2018-10-05

    I am a Libertarian, but I am going to vote for Billie Sutton. I am also sending him some greenbacks today.

  3. mike from iowa 2018-10-05

    Which state lawyer declined to settle? Was it Jackley, in his capacity as loser of lawsuits or Bollen in his capacity as appointed lawyer in losing lawsuits?

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-05

    An itemized bill? Well, from court documents, it appears the state is asking for exactly that, even the ACLU lawyers are responding that they’ve already cut costs and taken other extraordinary measures to reduce even the appearance of duplication in their billings.

    Mike, it was the entire state apparatus. The Legislature could have stopped this lawsuit at multiple instances, on the frequent and honest invitations of the plaintiffs who said, fix the ballot access laws, and we send the lawyers home. The Attorney General could have advised the Legislature SD was going to lose. But no. The Republican machine held on for a longshot verdict, and they lost.

  5. Darin Larson 2018-10-05

    Everyone should keep in mind that the $619,000 was just the plaintiffs side of this lawsuit. Taxpayers also will foot the bill for the state’s defense of these ill-advised and blatantly unconstitutional laws. Taxpayers lose twice because Republican legislators have no conscience when it comes to spending our tax money to try to keep themselves in power. And for what? What challenge to the Republican stranglehold on power did these tiny third parties present?

    The outrage continues in this matter as undoubtedly taxpayers will never be privy to the amount of costs incurred by the state to defend these laws. It will just be a part of another supplemental appropriation under the heading “extraordinary legal expenses” or some such label. I think the people of this state are entitled to know how their tax dollars are being spent and on money dollars are being wasted trying to fight partisan political battles.

  6. John 2018-10-05

    SD, the pretend state of personal responsibility, needs a law mandating that public servants who’s positions lead to these fiscal catastrophes are on the hook for a proportion of their payouts.
    Darin’s right. The total state bill is in excess of a million. Seven figures whizzed down the Missouri to no where doing no one any good. Thanks party of fiscal responsibility.

  7. Debbo 2018-10-05

    “Legislature and Executive Branch choose to ignore good legal advice and pigheadedly discriminate.” Cory

    There, in a pithy nutshell, you have a summation of government by the SDGOP.

  8. Debbo 2018-10-06

    I agree, Pithy. 😃

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