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Strong Sues Gant in Wrong Court; Hearing Likely to Move to Pierre

Stephanie Strong had to screw up somewhere. Her lawsuit to get Secretary of State Jason Gant to throw Rep. Brian Gosch (R-32/Rapid City) off the November ballot for violation of notary law has a solid statutory argument behind it (not to mention the precedent that former Secretaries of State and the SDGOP itself have set for diligent observance of notary law). But she appears to have filed it in the wrong court.

So says Assistant Attorney General Richard Williams, who is using our tax dollars to defend Secrretary Gant's misuse of our tax dollars. AAG Williams has filed to change the venue of Strong's suit from Pennington County to Hughes County.

I want to believe that this request is just part of the mass counterassault the state GOP is launching against any and all challengers to its unchecked power in Pierre. I want to believe that Secretary Gant, who can skip work to drive all the way to Rapid City just to try jawboning a critic into backing off, is just trying to inconvenience Strong by making her drive all the way to Pierre to press her case against his malfeasance.

But Gant has statute on his side. AAG Williams points to South Dakota Codified Law 15-5-2 on venue for legal action:

Actions for the following causes, or upon the following instruments, must be tried in the county where the cause, or some part thereof, arose, or the forfeiture was declared, subject to the power of the court to change the place of trial:

...Against a public officer, or person specially appointed to execute his duties, for an act done by him in virtue of his office, or against a person, who, by his command or his aid, shall do anything touching the duties of such officer... [SDCL 15-5-2].

Secretary Gant accepted Rep. Gosch's defense of his self-notarized petitions and authorized them in his office in Pierre. Stephanie Strong, you'd better ask Ed Randazzo and Gordon Howie for gas money. You'll be arguing your case against Gant in Pierre.


  1. Bryce Rausch 2012.09.20

    Regardless of the nuances of the writ, based on my research it boils down to her starting any of this wayyyy too late:
    12-1-13. Challenge to petition--Specific deficiencies. Within five business days after a nominating, initiative, or referendum petition is filed with the person in charge of the election, any interested person who has researched the signatures contained on the petition may file an affidavit stating that the petition contains deficiencies as to the number of signatures from persons who are eligible to sign the petition. The affidavit shall include an itemized listing of the specific deficiencies in question.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.20

    Bryce, I appreciate the legal research! That line should be at the top of AAG Williams's next brief.

    Now, doesn't five days seem like an awfully short statute of limitations? And if this statute does govern, why didn't Judge Mandel cite it and reject Strong's request?

  3. Justin 2012.09.20

    Are the petitions even available to the public to "research" within five days of being filed? Honest question, they may be but with SD's horrible record of denying the public access to public information I have no idea.

    If they are NOT, what is the law in such a case? That petitions cannot be challenged just because of a government deficiency in providing information? If so, that is a major loophole.

    I would normally assume that the petitions are made public in a timely manner, but having seen how this state does business, especially under Gant, I have to ask the question.

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