Jason Ravnsborg’s legal team appears to be losing another lawsuit. In federal court yesterday in Rapid City, Deputy Attorney General Rich Williams tried to defend Governor Kristi Noem’s rushed anti-protest/pro-Keystone XL laws by seeing the laws don’t intend to do exactly what Governor Noem said they were intended to do, target out-of-state advocates:
South Dakota Deputy Attorney General Rich Williams went back-and-forth with Judge Piersol, arguing the law only applies to violence-inducing speech made by a riot participant. Williams is representing Gov. Noem and Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
The argument differed from Noem’s comments when she introduced the bill. In a March 4 news release announcing the bill package, she said, “This package creates a legal avenue, if necessary, to go after out-of-state money funding riots that go beyond expressing a viewpoint but instead aim to slow down the pipeline build.”
At a press conference the same day, Noem said that George Soros is the “most typical national offender” who funds violent out-of-state protesters [Sarah Mearhoff, “State Argues ‘Riot-Boosting’ Law Doesn’t Target Out-of-State Protest Supporters,” Rapid City Journal, 2019.06.12].
It’s always worth recalling Noem’s anti-Semitic lie in full:
Noem says the bill is aimed to prevent out-of-state paid protestors from coming in and causing riots. She points to pipeline demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline. When asked for examples of out-of-state donors, she points to a wealthy, Jewish philanthropist…
“I’d say the most typical national offender that we see funding these types of activities would be George Soros,” Noem says. “Those types of entities that want to come in and create disruption on a build, with this infrastructure, is what we’re hoping to shut down.”
A spokeswoman for Open Society Foundations, a George Soros backed non-profit, says there was no involvement in North Dakota.
Laura Silber says Soros and the Foundations oppose violence of any sort. She says it’s odd the governor is seeking to tarnish the recent surge in citizen activism.
“And to suggest that somebody is paying for these people to turnout and protest and do someone’s bidding that’s paid for by Mr. Soros or anyone else, it does a grave disservice to these people who are standing up and making their voices heard,” Silber says. “Whether that’s in South Dakota or anywhere else in this country” [Lee Strubinger, “Governor Indicates George Soros Funding Out-of-State Protestors,” SDPB Radio, 2019.03.05].
Kristi Noem’s anti-Semitism isn’t on trial, but the veracity of her public statements now is. Team Ravnsborg’s legal strategy signals that Governor Noem lied to us about the real target of her anti-protest laws. It also leaves me scratching my head, because saying they aren’t targeting out-of-state advocates doesn’t change the ACLU’s argument that the vague riot-boosting laws chill the speech of advocates, whether out-of-state or in-state.
Even Rep. Tim Goodwin, who is several marbles shy of reliable legal scholarship, acknowledged in a May blog post that the bills he voted for target people and organizations who hire protestors, not just participants in protests against pipelines. How a Deputy Attorney General can walk into court and claim otherwise defies my comprehension.
It also defies Judge Lawrence Piersol’s comprehension:
Piersol replied to Wednesday’s arguments by the state, saying, “I don’t think I can decide it on that basis because I think that the state’s reading is not a correct reading of the statute.
“Frankly, I don’t think I should completely ignore the fact that the whole billing of this, including press statements and everything else by leaders of the state government has been, ‘We’re going to get those outsiders,'” Piersol continued. “And now they’re saying by a strange reading of this that it’s only going to be speech that is at the same time of the riot. If that is what this is intended for, that’s not the way I read the statute” [Mearhoff, 2019.06.12].
When your judge tells you that you are misreading the law you’re trying to defend, you need a new defense… and maybe new lawyers.