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Senate Must Wait 20 Days to Try Ravnsborg After Impeachment Vote

Jason Ravnsborg, police interview, not dated; posted by SD Department of Public Safety 2021.02.23.
How Jason will spend the days after impeachment… and perhaps for the rest of his life. Image from Jason Ravnsborg police interview, not dated; posted by SD Department of Public Safety 2021.02.23.

Discussion of impeachment may be moot by lunchtime, as Republican leadership’s willingness to file bipartisan articles of impeachment and the Governor’s release of killer Jason Ravnsborg’s police interviews put a fork in any hope he had of avoiding removal from office and make resignation today much more likely.

But for you Constitution hawks, it’s worth noting that South Dakota’s impeachment process differs from federal impeachment in one key aspect: if the House impeaches a state official, the impeachee is suspended from office until the Senate votes to convict or acquit:

The Senate is prohibited from hearing the case for at least 20 days after the notice of impeachment is served upon the impeached state official.  Rules of evidence, discovery, and subpoena power are all available as the Senate hears the case.

Section 5 of Article 16 requires the impeached state official be “suspended from duties” from the time between impeachment and acquittal.  The same section goes on to state, “No officer shall exercise the duties of his office after he shall have been impeached and before his acquittal.”

A Senate conviction requires at least a two-thirds majority vote.  If convicted, the state constitution requires “removal from office and disqualification to hold any office of trust or profit under the state” [links added; Carter Woodiel and Patrick Callahan, “South Dakota Constitution Untested on Impeachment Proceedings,” KELO Radio, 2021.02.24].

The House could thus take Ravnsborg off the job as quickly as it can clear the Crossover-Day decks and pass the impeachment articles by majority vote. But even if the House can act by the end of business Thursday, the Senate would not get to put Ravnsborg away until March 17. The Legislature gavels out of its main run on March 11 and isn’t scheduled to return to Pierre until March 29 for Veto Day. The Senate could hold an impeachment trial during the interim before Veto Day, or they might try to conduct the trial on Veto Day itself, which won’t be as busy as last year’s unusual last day with emergency pandemic bills.

But no one wants to make those extra trips, and no sensible public figure would want to prolong the agony of sitting around in Pierre waiting for a trial in which no one will be rooting for him, especially when he will already be stripped of his duties and have nothing else to do. Even from a purely self-perservational perspective (and the police interview videos make clear that’s all Jason’s got), Jason can’t want to go down in history as the first and only person impeached by the South Dakota Legislature. The only way for him to escape that humiliation is to resign now. Resignation will deny us Constitution fanatics the opportunity to watch a fascinating Constitutional process play out… but our legal edification and entertainment can be got elsewhere and is of quaternary importance compared to the need to do justice now.


  1. Nix 2021-02-24

    Well, the 20 days gives them enough time to include Mike Volek in this.
    Poor Mr. Boevers glasses were in Ravnsborgs front seat.
    What Sheriff anywhere in the United States has no spotlight in his car?
    They only used the cel phone light?
    The Hyde County Sheriff is inept.
    He needs to also resign.

  2. Mark Anderson 2021-02-24

    Well Nix, not sure about Mike Volek, he was always a straight forward guy when I knew him, stick to th AG for now, Mike must be nearing retirement, he’s been sheriff forever so Highmore must like him.

  3. Nix 2021-02-24

    I am just a poor boy tho’ my story’s seldom told.
    I have squandered my resistance for a pocket full of mumbles, such as promises
    All lies and jest.
    Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
    and disregards the rest.
    Simon and Garfunkel, 1968.

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-02-24

    I was always a Rolling Stones, Dylan, Velvets youngster. In fact the SDSU rodeo team visited me in Vermillion at my place, a Highmore friend was on the team. The Velvets were on loud, when they came in, one of them said, “what is this s—“. Silence for a moment then another guy yelled, “who gives a s—, turn it up” It was a n evening of pure coming together.

  5. Anthony Renli 2021-02-24

    Playing a little inside baseball here – and ignoring any personal feelings I have on this issue:

    The smartest thing he could do right now is resign. Even if he somehow gets through the impeachment he’s never going to get the nomination for AG again. If he stays in office all he’s going to do is piss off the party powers that be. The Governor and members of the House and Senate have all expressed that they don’t have confidence in him. Him staying around is going to do nothing but hurt the state, the AG’s office, and the Republican Party. If he resigns to “spend more time with his family” or to “take responsibility for what he’s done” or “whatever made up reason they can agree on” he might keep his law license and can get a job somewhere working for someone.
    If he sticks it out, and is removed from office he’ll be an embarrassment to the party and the source of some serious intra-party warfare. He’ll be toxic and nobody in the state or in neighboring states is going to hire him.
    If he sticks it out and isn’t removed, he’ll be a millstone around the neck of the Republican party, an embarrassment and a constant source of intra-party conflict that will last until he fails to get the nomination for re-election. Then he’ll again be toxic and nobody in the state will hire him.

    The partisan in me hopes he sticks it out and somehow survives the impeachment process because he’ll be a huge club we can hit the Republicans with at every possible opportunity.
    The person who looks at someone who made a horrible horrible mistake and is going to have to live with the cost of that for the rest of his life hopes that he makes the smarter choice for him and his family and resigns.

  6. Wayne 2021-02-24

    I think Anthony hits the nail on the head – Ravnsborg eked out a victory last go-round, but there’s no way the GOP would risk such an important seat to someone with so much negative name recognition.

    I take a bit of comfort that, now the facts of the incident are fully disclosed (or as much as can be), my party is working on providing some remedy despite the inability of the prosecutor to make more serious charges stick. None of this brings Mr. Boever back, but the facts of the case cement my believe that Mr. Ravnsborg shouldn’t continue to serve as our chief law enforcement officer.

  7. mike from iowa 2021-02-24

    I saw nothing to recommend Ravnsborg for any public office last election. Adding pedestrian killer to his resume is not gonna fix it. This should reflect poorly on those thsaty voted this stain into office, but, I forget, this Northern Mississippi we be dealing with. Leading the race to the bottom, post haste.

  8. tom schmitz 2021-02-24

    listening to the interviews — seems he was looking at this site about the time he was about he hit the guy….wow

  9. grudznick 2021-02-24

    Mr. Schmitz, I can imagine the bloglines some people could concoct. But grudznick just agrees with your “wow” on how ironic that may be.

  10. leslie 2021-02-25

    Well, not quite the same….

    “Rules of evidence, discovery, and subpoena power are all available as the Senate hears the case.”

    GOP/Trump’s evidence, discovery and subpoena power loophole renders national impeachment completely ineffectual. Until Trump is convicted criminally/civilly he and his family crime organization is a danger to all that people of good conscience hold dear. That the GOP serves him, suppresses the popular vote and manipulates its low information base, is a scar on our democracy, our republic, and the very freedom, justice and liberty real patriots survive on. We need to focus on climate change and economic inequality.

    (And fix numerous problems that have come to light, with the “sacred” constitution.)

    Neither Jason nor Kristi are on board with us.

  11. leslie 2021-02-25

    Impeachment is, at best, a tool that can deliver justice when a President’s party is a congressional minority, and, at its worst, a mechanism whose bar for success is so high as to nullify its own utility.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-02-25

    Anthony and Wayne are right: Ravnsborg has nothing left to offer his party but embarrassment. Every day he sticks around helps Democrats make the argument that Republicans think they shouldn’t be held accountable for their bad actions. The Republicans in the House and Senate should want to conduct this impeachment as quickly as constitutionally possible.

  13. Timoteo 2021-02-25

    I am hearing that Mr. Ravnsborg is charged with three misdemeanors in conjunction with his vehicular homicide back in the fall. I am also hearing that he is getting off easy with these three misdemeanor charges. Question: What would be more of a normal charge for this situation, and what would be more of a normal punishment?

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