At the end of October, the South Dakota Supreme Court said Speaker Spencer Gosch didn’t have to make public the names of the Representatives who called for the Special Session that started a formal impeachment investigation of killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. The press is now taking another judicial swing at getting those names:
“Argus Leader Media and South Dakota Newspaper Association have authorized me to start an open records lawsuit under SDCL 1-27-38,” wrote lawyer Jon Arneson to South Dakota LRC Executive Director Reed Holwegner.
Arneson explains that the South Dakota Supreme Court’s original rejection was not based on “the merits of our case, but only on the procedure.”
The letter from Arneson goes on to explain that in filing the lawsuit with a circuit court, he would also intend to ask the court to impose a civil penalty in accordance with SDCL 1-27-40.2. That law states that “if the court determines that the public entity acted unreasonably and in bad faith the court may award costs, disbursements, and a civil penalty not to exceed fifty dollars for each day that the record or records were delayed through the fault of the public entity” [Austin Goss, “South Dakota Speaker, LRC to Face 2nd AG Impeachment Petition Lawsuit,” KSFY, 2021.11.20].
Speaker Gosch is making noise on Twitter to make it sound like the press are the bad guys for trying to get information that the real bad guy, Speaker Gosch, is trying to keep secret. But reporter Joe Sneve notes that the LRC’s Holwegner is apparently trying to keep other Legislative documents secret:
On the merits, the circuit court should find there is no reason to conceal the names of legislators calling for a Special Session that overrides the public’s interest in knowing that the Legislature has been convened properly, by a special call of two thirds of its members, and not by the fiat of one overreaching Speaker.