You know, for being a conservative verging on Libertarian, Rep. Dan Kaiser (R-3/Aberdeen) sure likes proposing laws. He's prime sponsor of seven bills in the hopper so far (and he has until Tuesday to come up with more!). But sometimes you've got to pass laws to protect liberty.
One of Rep. Kaiser's bills, House Bill 1134, rights a wrong discussed on this blog and highlighted by the South Dakota Supreme Court last fall. HB 1134 would remove the clause under which Beadle County state's attorney Michael Moore and Attorney General Marty Jackley were able to punish attorney Brandon Taliaferro (pronounced /TOL - li - ver/) for challenging abuses of Native American children in the foster care system. The state presented no evidence that Taliaferro had committed any of the crimes for which it arrested him, but one niggling statute allowed prosecutor Moore to block Taliaferro's request to expunge the arrest record and allow him to practice law and go about his business without further impact from the bogus charges Moore brought. The South Dakota Supreme Court recognized Moore's action unjustly harmed Taliaferro but said the law is the law and dismissed Taliaferro's effort to win expungement.
Rep. Kaiser now seeks to erase prosecutors' authority to block expungement of arrests. As Bob Mercer points out, Rep. Kaiser has the backing of some legal heavy-hitters:
Kaiser is a policeman and his record in the Legislature has tended to be one of protecting people’s personal liberties. His co-sponsors include two retired circuit judges, Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, and Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion, and two private attorneys, Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, and Rep. Steven Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls [Bob Mercer, "Supreme Court: 'We Recognize This Is a Harsh Result'," Pure Pierre Politics, 2015.01.29].
As always, Mercer chooses his words carefully, but he appears to agree that the state treated Taliaferro poorly and that those poor treaters deserve some scrutiny:
The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee; a hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet. The Tailaferro indictment looked, from the outside, to have been a strange chapter in law enforcement in South Dakota. Now the matter and the actions of the various sides will receive further light, to a degree they previously hadn’t, before the Legislature [Mercer, 2015.01.29].
HB 1134 won't restore Taliaferro, but it will protect innocent citizens like him from future abuses of prosecutorial power. Stay tuned for the House Judiciary hearing: we'll see if Attorney General Marty Jackley can defend this prosecutorial veto power over the expungement of their own erroneous persecutions before the Legislature the way he did before the Supreme Court.