The impeachment of killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is off to a slow start, as a committee that includes four lawyers met just long enough Wednesday to say, Uh oh—we need a lawyer to figure out impeachment:
A special investigative committee on impeachment in the South Dakota House of Representatives for the first time Wednesday convened to begin the process of probing actions of Ravnsborg related to a 2020 crash that killed a pedestrian.
But the 9-member committee quickly adjourned after being told by legislative staff that it would need to retain legal counsel for guidance on process particulars like what constitutes impeachable offenses for sitting office holders and a timeline for sending a formal recommendation on impeachment back for consideration by the entire House [Joe Sneve, “No Timeline on Attorney General Ravnsborg Impeachment Meetings, House Speaker Needs to Choose Legal Counsel,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2021.11.10].
2021i House Resolution 7001, the resolution authorizing the investigation of Ravnbsorg, does direct the House Select Committee on Investigation to “employ a special counsel, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives pursuant to § 2-5-5, to serve as legal counsel to the committee and to assist the committee in carrying out its functions expressed and implied herein.” And I suppose with the 2022 Session coming up, the select committee might not want to simply draft Justin Goetz or any of the other Legislative Research Council lawyers who have all the Constitutional and statutory knowledge Speaker Spencer Gosch says he’s looking for but who are going to be busy writing and reviewing hundreds of draft bills for eager legislators for the next three months. But after raising the prospect of impeachment in February, and after filing the official Special Session proclamation on September 30, Legislative leaders couldn’t work up a short list of lawyers to call for this position and have in the chute for their first meeting in November? They couldn’t even get their own four lawyer-members, whom Speaker Gosch publicly named as committee members a full week before the House formally commissioned them, to prepare some legal analysis for their first meeting?
As I said Tuesday, the Legislature should not act with undue haste in carrying out this first-in-South Dakota impeachment. Cautious deliberation will ensure the Legislature sets correct precedents for this momentous procedure. But the Legislature’s lack of planning and lawyerly courage is unnecessarily delaying progress toward the ultimate correct precedent, the removal of an Attorney General who has lost the confidence of the public by breaking the law and killing a man.