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Heidelberger Beats Ravnsborg Again! Appeals Court Says State’s Appeal Moot, SD Voice Precedent Stands

…And We Still Need a Ruling on Petition Deadlines!

This news will be no comfort to the family of Joe Boever and all South Dakotans who are denied justice by the oopsy!-misdemeanor charges slapped on killer Jason Ravnsborg today

…but I did just beat South Dakota’s Attorney General in federal court, again. Last year, I beat Ravnsborg (and Governor Noem, and Secretary of State Steve Barnett) in SD Voice v. Noem II , my challenge of 2019 HB 1094, the Legislature’s unconstitutional registry and badging plan for petition circulators. The state appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, hoping it could avoid paying legal fees and erase this useful, pro-democracy precedent. I cross-appealed, saying that, on top of the fact that the state was still wrong, we needed the Eighth Circuit to kick the last fifth of our case back to the U.S. District Court for a ruling on whether South Dakota’s extremely early deadline for submitting initiative petitions is an additional unconstitutional burden on our democratic rights.

(Yes, it’s all quite complicated. Read the links!)

On Tuesday, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals worked through those complications and said yup, Cory’s right, Jason’s wrong:

The Eighth Circuit’s opinion makes clear that the state and its friends, the anti-initiative Chamber of Commerce and Biotech Association, didn’t land a single punch. The Appeals Court affirmed all three of my main arguments:

  1. The court ruled that the state mooted its own appeal by responding to the original District Court ruling by repealing HB 1094 and replacing it with a new law “designed to address the constitutional infirmities identified by the district court.”
  2. The court declined the state’s request to vacate the original ruling against HB 1094, saying that Judge Charles Kornmann’s evaluation of the unconstitutionality of the state’s efforts to stifle initiative and referendum petitions serves the public interest. Our Attorney General and the Republican machine that burped him up wanted to erase that ruling, because they recognized that it laid a hard marker down against the laws Republicans are trying to pass in legislatures across the country to stifle people power. But the court said, no, the public benefits from keeping this ruling on the books to help protect their core political speech from excessive government burdens.
  3. Since the District Court didn’t mention my challenge to South Dakota’s early initiative petition deadline (one year before the election!), that portion of our case remains outstanding and needs deciding. The Eighth Circuit thus remanded the case to Judge Kornmann to resolve our remaining claim about the petition deadline.

Read the complete opinion from Eighth Circuit below, written by Bush-appointed Judge Raymond Gruender for the three-judge panel of Gruender and Trump-appointed Judge Ralph Erickson and Judge Jonathan Kobes:

Credit goes, of course, to my outstanding attorney, Jim Leach of Rapid City, who has done all South Dakotans a great service by taking my arguments for our ballot question rights to court and winning. I could not have secured the repeal of HB 1094 and the establishment of this valuable case law for First Amendment rights without his powerful legal skills. (Also going to my outstanding attorney: more legal fees, paid by the taxpayers, because Jason Ravnsborg can’t win arguments about ballot questions.)

Today’s piddling misdemeanor charges against killer Jason Ravnsborg make it look like there’s no way to hold South Dakota Republicans accountable for their bad actions. But this week’s ruling from the Eighth Circuit shows we can still beat Jason Ravnsborg and his ilk. We just have to take him to court.


  1. grudznick 2021-02-18 18:47

    Congratulations, Mr. H. I don’t know much about all the mooting and legal razzamataz, but it does look like you made Mr. Ravnsborg’s bad week even worse.

  2. Bob Newland 2021-02-18 19:06

    I have watched SoDak state government defeated steadily when folks could afford to challenge it. It doesn’t seem to matter. It’s “Don’t actually put your hand on her butt when there are witnesses, “ and “Next.”

    The evisceration of the initiative privilege in SoDak is established, even though Cory and Leach have dealt the state an embarrassing blow (except those folks are not capable of shame). A reversal of recent stabs to our vocal cords is necessary before we can effectively challenge the legislature’s lameness again.

  3. Mark Anderson 2021-02-18 19:22

    Hip hip Cory, simply amazing.

  4. S 2021-02-18 19:39

    Congratulations Cory and Jim!

  5. Donald Pay 2021-02-18 20:49

    Thanks, Cory, for taking this on. Jim Leach is a great attorney, one of the best in South Dakota.

  6. Drey Samuelson 2021-02-18 22:32

    Wow–great and wonderful job to both Jim and Cory!! To get this ruling from the conservative 8th Circuit Court is damn near unbelievable, and I couldn’t be happier for the two of you, for direct democracy, and for every South Dakotan who wants to use the ballot initiative process to make our state a better place to live and raise our families!

  7. cibvet 2021-02-19 00:01

    .. SD needs a Voter Protection Act ( like Arizona) constitutional amendment for voter protection of initiatives/amendments that legislators cannot touch at 50% plus one.

  8. V 2021-02-19 05:22

    We are grateful to Cory and Jim for helping South Dakotans fight for our rights.

  9. Jenny 2021-02-19 05:54

    Badass Coryand his lawyer. A west river lawyer that isn’t influenced by the GOP party in SD? Amazing.
    Fist bump.

  10. Nix 2021-02-19 06:50

    Tip of the rim to you Mr. H.
    Very impressive.
    Thank you for your good work.

  11. leslie 2021-02-19 10:21

    Thx cibvet. Great suggestion. The Republican AG has all the time and our money in the world to force taxpayers and voters to court to resist SOUTH DAKOTA “Republican Authoritarianism”. Mega thx to Cory and Jim.

    This should anger South Dakotans! Vote Democratic at EVERY opportunity or Noem, the AG and the legislature will keep up their bullsheit abuse of political power. Accountability for BOTH SIDES, and all others.

  12. Cathy B 2021-02-19 13:12

    Alert to all DFP readers: Please help stop HJR 5003 – another attack on citizen ballot measures. It needs to be stopped in the Senate. It already passed the House.

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