Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and Superintendent of Highway Patrol Col. Kevin Miller sued in Hughes County Court two weeks after the election last November when over 54% of voters approved marijuana legalization in the state constitution . for publicly initiated constitutional changes, including adaptation to a single decided issue.
Ultimately, this reasoning found favor with Judge Christina Klinger, who, after a hearing in Pierre in January, rejected Amendment A, lamenting the “far-reaching implications for the fundamental nature of the system of government in South Dakota.”
In a file filed on April 5, lawyers Brendan Johnson and Timothy Billion, who represent a group of supporters, including the South Dakotans, argue for better marijuana laws. “[Sheriff] Thom cannot bring this lawsuit in his official capacity because district officials cannot sue the state. ”
“Its job is to keep the law,” continues the letter, “however the people or the legislature may make it.”
Regarding the street policeman’s role in this lawsuit, Better Marijuana lawyers tell the five-member state’s Supreme Court, which will hear oral remarks on Amendment A on Wednesday, that Miller is an inadequate representative of Governor Kristi Noem who opposed Amendment A. and issued an executive order blessing the lawsuit in January.
“Miller is an employee of a department of the state executive,” the lawyers wrote in another brief filed in March, arguing that a “subordinate” of the governor could not sue the state.
Lawyers representing Thom and Miller both reject these arguments, saying that their clients are interfering in an issue, namely legal marijuana use, which could affect their jobs’ ability to “keep the peace”.
“When the use of marijuana is legalized, road safety will be compromised by having a drunk or drugged driving bureau,” wrote Belle Fourche-based attorney Bob Morris, who represents Sheriff Thom.
Attorneys Matthew S. McCaulley and Lisa Prostrollo, who represented Miller, also cited arguments that “the state has nothing to do with” wrongly “protecting the state constitution.
At the center of the debate is a 1999 case involving the Edgemont, South Dakota School District, suing the Treasury Department over a state railroad property tax bill. On this matter, the judges ruled that a plaintiff must be the “real party in the interest” to sue and almost sue “legislature’s creations” for suing the state.
However, Morris argued that the Rapid City sheriff was not a “legislature’s creation,” noting that Pennington County first hired a sheriff in 1877 – 12 years before statehood.
“As such, there is nothing that prevents him in his official capacity from challenging a constitutional amendment,” writes Morris.
Miller lawyers argue that the standard developed in the Edgemont case is not applicable in the struggle for Change A because the highway patrol is “not a school district or a political subdivision of the state.”
They are optimistic about Noem’s executive order, comparing proponents’ accusation that others cannot act on behalf of the governor with the assertion that “the governor must personally arrest and extradite a refugee”.
Oral disputes will take place on Wednesday at 10 a.m.