…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:
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.