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Governor Can’t Fire Ravnsborg… So How About a Special Session for Impeachment?

Jason Ravnsborg, Christmas video, 2019.12.24.
Don’t wait for Christmas or impeachment, Jason; resign now. [Jason Ravnsborg, Christmas video, 2019.12.24.] K
To be clear, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg should resign from office now. He’s our state’s top law enforcement officer, and he killed a man Saturday.

But Governor Kristi Noem cannot fire him.

South Dakota Codified Law 3-17-1 allows the Governor to remove “all constitutional state officers not liable to impeachment… for crimes, misconduct, or malfeasance in office or for drunkenness or gross incompetency.” In such cases, the Governor must give the official she’s canning a notice and a hearing.

But South Dakota Constitution Article 16 Section 3 seems to limit that gubernatorial fire power to county officials:

The Governor and other state and judicial officers, except county judges, justices of the peace and police magistrates, shall be liable to impeachment for drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office, but judgment in such cases shall not extend further than to removal from office and disqualification to hold any office of trust or profit under the state. The person accused whether convicted or acquitted shall nevertheless be liable to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment according to law [S.D. Const. 16-3].

Ousting Ravnsborg will require action by the Legislature. SD Const. 16-1 gives the House the power of impeachment by majority vote; SD Const. 16-2 requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict and remove the Attorney General or other impeachee from office.

Hmm… there’s been talk about a Special Session to address coronavirus relief funding. Perhaps the additional menace to public safety posed by Ravnsborg will motivate more legislators to support convening before Christmas.

But be warned: if the Legislature impeaches Ravnsborg, or if Ravnsborg does the right thing and quits now, Governor Noem gets to pick his replacement.


  1. Jenny 2020-09-17

    Call your Legislators everyone. The AG should AT LEAST be placed on leave which the Legislature has the only authority to do. Correct me if I’m wrong.
    Are you kidding Cory, this spineless bunch of Republicans would never impeach their Hero. I guess it is always good to have lofty dreams of an ethical State government though.

  2. Steve 2020-09-17

    Let the investigation happen. You are a pathetic partisan hack blogger.

  3. mike from iowa 2020-09-17

    It seems the state patheticologist is never available for duty when wingnuts are involved in high crimes and misdemeanors. Benda didn’t get the top guy. Not sure if Westerhuis did, but Mr Boever goes to Minnesota for his forensic exam which might be the best thing overall.

  4. Jenny 2020-09-17

    Beat it, Steve. Get your partisan eyes out of here if you can’t handle it. Cory, please watch Steve today.

  5. bearcreekbat 2020-09-17

    ¡qué sorpresa! ¿Quién podría haberlo sabido?

  6. o 2020-09-17

    Steve, A.G. Ravnsborg is innocent until proven guilty. I believe the fear is that the process for determining that innocent/guilt status has been compromised when dealing with high-ranking political figures in SD in the past. Even to this point, that process has some odor of compromise.

  7. Dave 2020-09-17

    Can we get Thune and Rounds to be honorary jurors to insure that no witnesses are called?

  8. Jake 2020-09-17

    The GOP would really be clamoring for an impeachment process if the AG were a Democrat who had done some prying into state corruption while in office. But, given current conditions, you won’t hear much appetite for it I assume! Ideally, he should leave his office voluntarily while the investigation goes forward. Maybe said investigation would move quicker (giving the family and public some comfort). I can see the possibilities of this investigation being channeled to lose its impact on the public by being overcome with the election news cycle.

  9. John M Fitzgerald 2020-09-17

    There is nothing to investigate here. The Taurus was over the fog line and hit Mr. Boever who was walking on the shoulder. Mr. Boever’s body was thrown almost immediately up and over the car after going through the windshield. Brakes were applied for a distance of almost two hundred feet which will show approximately 70-80 miles per hour and the body was not found until the next day. The Attorney General says he did not see what he hit. So crossing the fog line, exceeding speed, eyes not on the road-what is there to investigate? There is a pedestrian crash test video on youtube created by Texas A&M which shows a Ford Taurus at 70 mph impacting a crash test figure. I think it explains a lot as to why Mr. Boever was not found until the next day.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-09-17

    Steve, you’re a pathetic crybaby who can’t express any intelligent thought or argument, only cheap one-liner insults.

    I presented a brief reading of statutes relevant to the removal of an Attorney General from office, an issue that is on the minds of many South Dakotans right now. How is laying out the relevant statutes and explaining why the Governor cannot fire an Attorney General who has killed a South Dakotan partisan hackery?

    Poor Steve keeps confusing facts that make him uncomfortable with malicious lies.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-09-17

    On removal from office: can South Dakotans have confidence in an elected official who has killed a man?

  12. Joseph 2020-09-17

    I’m not 100% sure if impeachment is the correct call yet. I just feel like its better to have all the facts, not because I don’t believe that even if everything happened as he said it did that he shouldn’t be impeached, but rather if you rush impeachment the state legislators will use that as an out to not vote for impeachment.

    I understand that the Governor can’t order him to be placed on leave, but are you honestly telling me if she publicly asked for him to take a LOA, that he wouldn’t feel the pressure to do so?

  13. Mike Livingston 2020-09-17

    Does anyone really think lil queenie would fire him if she could, that’s the kind of logic that keeps the rapid fire liar in office, lying donald lock him up!

  14. 96Tears 2020-09-17

    COVID Kristi would pick a very dangerous replacement for Ravsborg, who was the least qualified person to become SD AG in at least the last 70 years. I don’t know who a South Dakota version of William Barr would be, but I agree that one should be careful about what one wishes for.

    Even as qualified and well suited as Marty Jackley was while serving as AG, the Pierre privileged class prevailed. The paranoid lockdowns on information (still waiting for the promised review of the Benda “suicide” report by two news reporters), the cover ups and corruption of the legal process ran rampantly in the Mike Rounds EB-5 scandal and the fiascos all the way around the GEAR UP program. The crooks got away with it and remain at large without being brought to justice.

    So, I can understand the deep and widespread suspicion with Ravsborg, Noem and the Hyde County Sheriff, to name a few players. They’ve locked down access to information except for Ravsborg’s shape shifting alibis that can’t hold water. Noem held two press conferences that offered very little information while promising “transparency,” which still hasn’t happened. There is a sheriff who somehow displays indifference to investigating an accident (was it his first nighttime accident investigation? You would think so if he can’t follow the trail of blood and see a mangled body in a flat, wide ditch that had been mowed.). Family called the sheriff early Sunday that Joe had been missing and possibly killed near the west city limits of Highmore near his pickup truck. And yet no word back until Sunday evening when they were told they must identify the body that laid in the ditch for more than a half day.

    This stinks to high heaven. It’s fishy. We’ve been down this road. We’ve seen justice mangled in recent years by the heads of state government. But I’m willing to hold final judgment until the official record is fully released. John M. Fitzgerald seems to have the essential facts straight, except I don’t how an experienced sheriff could not find a body at night in a flat, wide, mowed ditch very close to the pavement given all of the search equipment at his disposal. The blood trail led right to the body.

    I think that’s the lynchpin where all of the alibis will come unraveled.

  15. o 2020-09-17

    As to the Governor’s replacement for A.G., are there any kids left at home still?
    Thanks folks, I’ll be here all week; don’t forget to tip your waitresses.

  16. Bob Newland 2020-09-17

    John Fitzgerald. Singing a happy song and dancing a happy dance.

  17. SuFuMatt 2020-09-17

    I keep wondering to myself, why the first press conference? No real information was shared. What was the point? All it did was create speculation. Could that have been the point? Create speculation, muddy the waters, subtly fan the flames…

    It is important to note that every attorney who works for a state agency must have the blessing of the AG. That goes back to the Janklow days and was a mechanism to control the various agencies, specifically in their enforcement duties, such as handing out fines for environmental infractions.

    I’m just sayin’, before you go hoping for resignation, beware the other side of the fence. I think we all know how high qualifications for the job ranks in appointments.

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-09-17

    [Nick Nemec’s cousin is dead, and his killer sits safely in his elected office in Pierre, rigging his own investigation. Stay focused, people.]

  19. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-09-17

    96 offers a fair reminder: I do not look forward to Noem getting to pick a replacement AG, for much the same reason that I didn’t look with unmitigated eagerness toward a Trump impeachment. Like Trump, Ravnsborg’s only good point is that he’s too incompetent to run a truly tyrannical state apparatus. His office has helped the state lose at least three major cases in court (his “defense” of Noem’s anti-protest/pro-pipeline bill and the two I&R-related suits that he lost to me). If he stepped aside or if the Legislature ousted him, the GOP would be on Noem’s case to make sure she replaced him with an effective prosecutor, someone who could come up with strong legal pretexts to round up protestors, catch Democrats in speed traps, frame liberal bloggers… yes, a Ravnsborg impeachment could lead us to two years of our own little mini-Barr….

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-09-17

    …but, as with Trump, I would still take impeachment over letting a corrupt lawbreaker sit in office.

    And let’s not get too paranoid. She won’t put Matt McCaulley or Tony Venhuizen there; they do their best work out of the spotlight. She might face too much of a risk picking any of the climbers who’s fight for the job and the shoe-in to election in 2022; picking, say, Jon Hansen or some other pushy Republican would spark in-fighting and alienate the affections of whatever GOP faction’s golden boy she didn’t pick. If (when? because really, how can an AG survive this kind of disaster to his reputation for upholding the law and public safety?) Noem gets to pick the AG for 2021 and 2022, might there not be a strong chance she’d just play it safe and promote Deputy AG Charles McGuigan?

  21. Cathy 2020-09-17

    CAFO Kristi could appoint Mark Mickelson as AG. Wouldn’t that be fun?

  22. leslie 2020-09-18

    Keeping an incompetent AG is like appointing life time federal judges with 32 year old partisan lawyer-friends of the GOP (wife of an acting general counsel Trump plastered onto DHS administration so he could establish immigrant concentration camps on the border (i will look up his/her nanes).

    Today top Obama civil rights lawyer observes:

    Vanita Gupta
    BREAKING: The Senate has now confirmed EIGHT of Trump’s district court nominees in the past three days. Lifetime appointments to the federal bench.

    Understand this: In ALL of 2016, McConnell only allowed votes on 8 of Obama’s district court picks. Trump just got 8 in three days.

  23. Bob Newland 2020-09-18

    Ah, yes, the hapless Charlie McGuigan, perennial buttboy for a series of AGs. He once said to a legislative committee that “marijuana” contains over 400 carciginians. I asked, “How many carciginians can dance on the head of a match?”

  24. Debbo 2020-09-18

    Kruel Kristi will install whoever Daddy Dumbutt tells her too. Does state law allow for an “acting AG” who is not a SDan?

  25. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-09-19

    Debbo, interesting question about residency. We know that residency is a pretty loose concept in South Dakota, so if residency matters, Kristi could pick a Trump lawyer from DC or Florida and just have him or her register an RV in Lake County to be a resident.

    SDCL 3-4-1 does say that a vacancy occurs in an elected office if the person holding it “Ceases to be a resident of the state, district, county, municipality, township, ward, or precinct in which the duties of the office are to be exercised or for which elected….”

  26. sdslim 2020-09-21

    Cory and all, What does the constitution say about an elected officer holding office if they are convicted of a crime — misdemeanor or felony, or while there is an active investigation of the same? I know many of the licenses for professionals are suspended if they are under investigation and they lose it if they are convicted. How about his law license?

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-09-21

    You know, Slim, you raise a good question. The Secretary of State doesn’t mention felony convictions on his quals page. However, SDCL 3-4-1 does say that a public office becomes vacant if the elected official “Is convicted of any infamous crime or of any offense involving a violation of the official oath of the office.”

    SDCL 3-4-1 appears to say Ravnsborg is toast… if he’s convicted of any serious charges.

  28. mike from iowa 2020-09-21

    96Tears, your link is behind a paywall. Can you give us the gist of what was said about the putz that likely compromised an accident investigation scene?

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