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.