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Supreme Court rules in non-disclosure of session supporters

October 28, 2021 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota Supreme Court is siding with a legislative leader who has refused to disclose the names of lawmakers who signed a petition calling for a special session on impeachment of the state’s attorney general.

The high court ruled Wednesday in a lawsuit brought by the South Dakota Newspaper Association and the Argus Leader against House Speaker Spencer Gosch. The Glenham Republican won’t disclose the names of legislators who signed the petition after earlier announcing that at least two-thirds of the House members had signed it.

A special session on the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg will be held Nov. 9. Gosch has indicated he intends to appoint a panel to recommend whether the conduct of Ravnsborg, who struck and killed a pedestrian in 2020, merits his removal from office.

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Gosch has argued the names of the lawmakers are irrelevant, but the plaintiffs say the petition signatures amount to legislative votes that triggered government action and should be released like any other votes cast by legislators.

Chief Justice Steven Jensen wrote the non-disclosure of the names doesn’t in and of itself implicate a question of whether Gosch convened a special session “in excess of the powers of authority conferred by law upon him.”

“As unfortunate as Speaker Gosch’s shielding this information from the public is, for the state’s highest court to allow and encourage opaque government is dumbfounding,” said Argus Leader news director Cory Myers.