It only took Representative Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) two weeks at the Speaker’s podium to get himself sued, and he hasn’t even passed any absurd misogynist anti-choice or anti-gay or anti-transgender violations of civil rights yet. All it took was Haugaard’s first big power trip, his unilateral violation of the civil rights of one woman, Yvonne Taylor:
Taylor’s lawsuit accuses Haugaard, who is a lawyer, of violating her First Amendment right to free speech and First Amendment retaliation. By banning her from the floor, she is unable to adequately represent her members, the lawsuit says.
“One important aspect of lobbying is circulating bill sponsor sheets and explaining to legislators the bill they are being asked to sponsor,” the lawsuit says. “Legislators sign the bill sponsor sheet in order to become a sponsor of a bill. This activity occurs almost exclusively on the floors of the House and Senate” [Jonathan Ellis, “Lobbyist Files Suit Against South Dakota House Speaker,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2019.01.22].
As a bonus, Taylor’s lawyer is David Lust, a former Republican legislator who voted against some of Haugaard’s efforts to shut the general public out of participatory democracy during the 2018 Session.
Another lawyer in the Legislature, Senator Lee Schoenbeck, made clear on the radio Saturday that he thinks Speaker Haugaard has this lawsuit coming:
That goofus now is probably gonna get the state sued, because it’s called a 1983 Action. It’s illegal to do what he did. The rules let him set the decorum for the House, but he couldn’t, for example, say, “I don’t want any blacks on the floor, or I don’t want any Catholics or Jews on the floor,” and he can’t say “I don’t want anybody that writes things that disagree with the government on the floor” [Senator Lee Schoenbeck, interviewed by Jody Heemstra, “Speaker Bans SD Municipal League Executive Director from House Floor,” DRGNews.com, 2019.01.18].
Goofus?! Great Gaia, I’ve got to add that word to my working vocabulary. And we’ve all got to watch now to see if Speaker Haugaard takes that insult as grounds to ban Senator Schoenbeck from the floor during Governor Noem’s tardy budget address tomorrow.
Now wait a minute—1983 Action? That’s no joke about what we were wishing for in junior high; that’s federal civil rights law:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia [42 U.S. Code § 1983].
(And by the way, when I check Cornell Law’s website, I get an ad from Schoenbeck Law. Lee is everywhere!)
As if goofus and 1983 Action weren’t enough, Schoenbeck deliberately goaded Haugaard with an assertion that members of the House share Taylor’s characterization of the Haugaard fringe as “wackies.” The context of the Heemstra/Schoenbeck leaves Lee’s words unclear, but the interview suggests that a fellow sitting legislator referred to a proliferation of “crazies”:
That’s the opinion of members of the House of Representatives. There’s a critical mass that are more than a bubble off, and it creates policy issues for the State of South Dakota, and now they have a Speaker of the House who doesn’t understand the United States Constitution and is defining himself cleanly into that group. You can’t be screwing every municipality in the state of South Dakota and the taxpayers that are funding this lobbyist and refusing to let our representative be the only person who is not allowed on the floor of the House of Representatives [Schoenbeck, in Heemstra, 2019.01.18].
Would someone please hang a hot mike on Senator Schoenbeck and let it run all Session?
Remember how Schoenbeck rang in early to declare the ultra-right-wing challenge to two elected Democratic Lakota women’s qualifications to serve in the Legislature “stupid“? That challenge fizzled fast. Now Schoenbeck calls the ultra-right-wing Speaker of the House a goofus who doesn’t understand the United States Constitution and points to exactly the federal (federal!!!) statute Speaker Goofus violated in banning an uppity woman from the floor. Even if Haugaard dissolves his ban now, Taylor can still make the case that his breach of her civil rights caused concrete damage to her and to the constituents from around the state whom she serves but whose interests have already been stifled by the Speaker’s abuse of power.
Gee, House Republicans, maybe you should take my advice and remove Speaker Haugaard before he gets you in even more trouble.
Related Reading: For those of you scoring at home, Yvonne Taylor and South Dakota Municipal League v. Steven Haugaard is Case Number 3:19-cv-03003-RAL in the U.S. District Court of South Dakota. The presiding judge if Roberto A. Lange, son of former Democratic legislator Gerry Lange from Madison. you can read the six-page complaint yourself here. Among the highlights:
- Taylor asserts that, since at least 1991, no one has ever been banned from the House floor during the hours that it is open to the public.
- Taylor seeks no windfall, just a court order that she be allowd on the House floor like other lobbyists and members of the public… and that Haugaard pay for Lust’s lawyering.
- Also listed as Taylor’s attorney: Sara Frankenstein, a Republican favorite who used to serve on the SDGOP executive board.
- And remember, Lust and Frankenstein work for Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson, and Ashmore, the Rapid City law firm that regained Marty Jackley as one of its legal eagles this month.
According to a memo filed with the court today, Haugaard has 21 days to respond to this summons, which was served on Haugaard in care of Jason Ravnsborg, Attorney General of South Dakota.
Ravnsborg is your attorney? Uh oh, Steve: you’d better make sure he doesn’t miss any deadlines. (I’ll bet that summons makes more than a few of Haugaard’s supporters wish they’d supported Randy Seiler for Attorney General.)
The plaintiffs’ memorandum in support of their motion for a preliminary injunction contains these beautiful words about political speech and the First Amendment:
It is beyond legitimate dispute that in authoring her May 2018 article, Plaintiff Taylor was engaged in protected speech and that by publishing the article, the League was engaged in protected speech. Plaintiff Taylor’s article encourages voter registration, explains the importance of voting for state legislators, and advocates for certain types of candidates over others. The article criticizes some legislators and advocates voter turnout to elect different legislators. Such political speech is the most protected speech under the First Amendment and associated case law. “The criticism of public officials lies at the heart of speech protected by the First Amendment”. Williams v. City of Carl Junction, 480 F.3d 871, 874 (8th Cir. 2007). Plaintiffs easily meet the first factor, demonstrating they engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment [emphasis mine; Taylor & SDML v. Haugaard, memorandum in support of motion, 2019.01.22, pp. 8–9].
Criticism of legislators is the most protected speech under the First Amendment. The most protected. Let’s make sure we write that line into any civics curriculum.
p.s.: And in absolute mitakuye oyasin craziness, the plaintiffs support their case with multiple citations of Bruce Danielson’s lawsuit against Mike Huether.