Sensing that fatally distracted anti-marijuana Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg might not be able to adequately represent their interests, four South Dakotans have filed to intervene in the state-backed challenge to Amendment A, the voter-approved constitutionalization of cannabis in South Dakota.
The defendants are:
- Randy Seiler, chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party and a former U.S. Attorney;
- Melissa Mentele, executive director of New Approach South Dakota and sponsor of the successful medical marijuana ballot initiative;
- Bill Stocker, a retired Sioux Falls police officer;
- Chuck Parkinson, former staffer for Sen. Jim Abdnor and former appointees of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
The defendants are represented by Brendan Johnson, a former U.S. Attorney for South Dakota and sponsor of Amendment A; Timothy Billion; and Eric Magnuson, former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Johnson said their legal fees are being paid by South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, a ballot question political committee [Arielle Zionts, “Judge Grants Voters’ Request to Oppose Sheriff, Highway Patrol Supreintendent in Marijuana Lawsuit,” Rapid City Journal, 2020.12.04].
Judge Christina Klinger accepted those litigants’ intervention on December 1.
Ravnsborg’s office is trying to do its job. Assistant A.G. Grant Flynn has asked Judge Klinger to dismiss the Election Contest filed by Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and Highway Patrol Colonel Rick Miller. The state contends that Amendment A does not violate the single-subject rule. The state also contends that Amendment A did not have to go through a constitutional convention:
Flynn didn’t dispute that there are different vehicles for modifying the Constitution outlined within it, but in his retort said that the section of the Constitution dealing with that isn’t necessarily binding.
“The State denies that these requirements ‘must’ be met for a constitutional change to be considered an ‘amendment’ because the language of Article XXIII is permissive, not obligatory” [Joe Sneve, “Attorney General Asks Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Legal Pot in South Dakota,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2020.12.04].
According to Sneve, Judge Klinger wants all arguments and motions from both parties by January 8. That one-month time frame is remarkable compared to the last time our one-party regime tried to overturn a popular initiative in court: back in 2016, Republican legislators filed suit before Thanksgiving to block freshly voter-approved Initiated Measure 22 from taking away their free dinners from lobbyists, obtained a preliminary injunction from Judge Mark Barnett by December 8, and won a complete suspension of IM 22 from the court by the Winter Solstice. Judge Klinger won’t even have all the arguments in hand from the state, the state, and Team Johnson/Seiler until after Epiphany.