Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court
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A Mexican national, J.R., who worked seasonally in Sully County, South Dakota, required emergency medical treatment for appendicitis. He was taken to Avera St. Mary’s Hospital in Hughes County, where he received treatment and incurred medical bills totaling over $75,000. J.R. had no health insurance, few assets, and returned to Mexico without paying the bills. Avera sought reimbursement from Sully County under county poor-relief statutes.The Sully County Board of Commissioners denied Avera's application for reimbursement, citing J.R.'s status as a nonresident of Sully County. Avera appealed this decision to the circuit court, which remanded the case back to the Commission for a more detailed factual record. After a hearing, the Commission again denied Avera's claim, determining that J.R. was indigent by design and was not in distress in Sully County at the time the county was notified. Avera appealed this decision to the circuit court, which affirmed the Commission's decision.The Supreme Court of the State of South Dakota affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that the county's obligation to support poor persons is statutory, not common law. The court interpreted the poor-relief statutes to require every county to support all poor and indigent persons who have established residency therein. However, the parties agreed that J.R. was not a resident of Sully County. The court found that the county had no statutory obligation to reimburse Avera for J.R.'s emergency medical services, as he was a nonresident indigent who had left Sully County before the Commission learned he was in distress. The court concluded that in these circumstances, where temporary relief had already been administered to the nonresident indigent by a third party in another county, Sully County had no statutory obligation to reimburse Avera for J.R.'s emergency medical services. View "Avera St. Mary’s Hospital V. Sully County" on Justia Law

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Lonnie Reidburn, a self-employed insurance agent, appealed a decision by the South Dakota Department of Labor, Reemployment Assistance Division (Department) that he must repay $24,690 in pandemic unemployment benefits he received. Reidburn's income was based on commissions he received for new policies and renewals, which required in-person visits to clients' homes or businesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Reidburn experienced a significant reduction in his ability to procure new policies and renewals because clients did not want him to make in-person visits. As a result, Reidburn's income decreased. He applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) through the Department and received benefits for 39 weeks. However, the Department later determined that Reidburn's loss of income was not the direct result of the pandemic and issued a determination of ineligibility.The administrative law judge (ALJ) upheld the Department's determination of ineligibility, reasoning that the individual decisions of Reidburn's clients to preclude him from entering their homes or places of business were not a direct result of the pandemic. However, the ALJ rejected the Department's at-fault determination and found that Reidburn was not at fault for the overpayment. The ALJ also concluded that Reidburn's request for a waiver was untimely. Reidburn appealed the ALJ's decision to the circuit court, which affirmed the ALJ's decision.The Supreme Court of the State of South Dakota reversed the ALJ's determination that Reidburn was ineligible to receive PUA benefits for 35 of the 39 weeks at issue, based on its recent decision in Bracken v. South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, Reemployment Assistance Division. The court declined to address the Department's argument that Reidburn failed to present sufficient evidence to support his testimony that he experienced a significant reduction in services, as the Department did not raise this argument at Reidburn's administrative hearing. The court affirmed the circuit court's denial of Reidburn's motion for attorney fees. View "Reidburn v. Department of Labor & Regulation" on Justia Law

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In South Dakota, Kenneth Leroy Kurtz pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance. The circuit court determined there were aggravating circumstances that justified a departure from the presumptive probation sentence, and Kurtz was sentenced to five years in prison. Kurtz appealed the decision, arguing that he did not pose a significant risk to the public and therefore should have received probation. Alternatively, he claimed the court abused its discretion by imposing the maximum prison sentence.The Supreme Court of the State of South Dakota reviewed the case and determined that the circuit court had wrongly applied the statute for presumptive probation. The court noted that while the circuit court had identified aggravating circumstances, it had also found that Kurtz did not pose a significant risk to the public. The Supreme Court pointed out that the law allows for a departure from presumptive probation only if aggravating circumstances that pose a significant risk to the public are found.The court concluded that the circuit court's statement that punishment was warranted regardless of whether Kurtz posed a threat to society contradicted the mandate in the statute. Therefore, the Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's sentence and remanded the case for the circuit court to issue a sentence of probation. View "State v. Kurtz" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of South Dakota, petitioners Tammy Bohn, Justin Bohn, and Brenda Vasknetz (collectively, the Citizens) sought a writ of mandamus against several city officials after the finance officer for the City of Sturgis declined to certify their petition to hold an election to remove the position of city manager from the City’s government. The circuit court denied the writ by granting summary judgment in favor of the City. The Citizens appealed this decision.The Supreme Court of the State of South Dakota reversed the circuit court’s decision. The Court concluded that the finance officer had a clear duty under administrative rules to certify the petition and present it to the city council, as long as the petition was in the correct form, contained the necessary number of valid signatures, and met the requirements in terms of header and verification. The Court held that neither the finance officer nor the city council had the authority to delay the scheduling of an election to vote on the submitted petition. Their attempts to do so were based on their mistaken belief that the law does not allow citizens to request an election on whether the City should no longer utilize a city manager.As a result, the Court remanded the case to the circuit court to enter a writ of mandamus directing the city council to schedule and hold an election consistent with the relevant statute as presented in the petition. The Court also concluded that the Citizens were not entitled to attorney fees, but, as the prevailing party, they were entitled to costs. View "Bohn V. Bueno" on Justia Law

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In South Dakota, McLane Western, Inc. and McLane Minnesota, Inc., South Dakota-licensed wholesalers of tobacco products, purchased Other Tobacco Products (OTP) from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Brands, Inc. (UST Sales), who in turn purchased the products from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Manufacturing Company, LLC (UST Manufacturing), a federally licensed tobacco manufacturer. McLane brought the OTP into South Dakota and paid the state's 35% tobacco tax. They calculated the tobacco tax they owed using the amount they paid to UST Sales for the OTP, a price higher than what UST Sales paid UST Manufacturing for the same OTP. McLane later submitted numerous refund requests to the South Dakota Department of Revenue, arguing that they overpaid their tax obligations as their tax should have been based on the price UST Sales paid UST Manufacturing.The Supreme Court of the State of South Dakota agreed that McLane overpaid its tobacco tax as it was based on the higher price it paid to UST Sales instead of the price at which UST Manufacturing sold tobacco products to UST Sales. However, the court also concluded that McLane was not entitled to a refund for the overpaid amounts. The court reasoned that although McLane overpaid its advance tax obligation, it fully recovered the advance tax it paid from the dealers to whom it subsequently sold the OTP. The dealers then recovered that tax from the consumers who purchased the OTP. Thus, McLane was made whole by its resale of the OTP and is not entitled to any refund. The court affirmed the Department’s denial of McLane’s request for a refund. View "Mclane Western, Inc. v. South Dakota Department Of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Austin McGee was involved in a car accident on a stretch of Highway 45 in South Dakota that was undergoing resurfacing. He claimed that the accident was caused by a negligent failure by the South Dakota Department of Transportation (DOT) and several of its employees to ensure that the contractor responsible for the resurfacing complied with DOT standards and industry practices. The DOT argued that sovereign immunity protected it from the lawsuit. The Supreme Court of South Dakota affirmed the lower court's decision that McGee could sue the DOT and its employees, rejecting the DOT's arguments that McGee lacked standing as a third-party beneficiary of the contract between the DOT and the contractor, and that McGee failed to establish an actionable duty. The court found that the DOT had a ministerial duty under its own Standard Specifications not to exceed the estimated amount of tack coating to be applied each day, but found no ministerial duties relating to the use of precautionary measures. Thus, the Supreme Court of South Dakota affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Mcgee V. Spencer Quarries" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the South Dakota Department of Transportation (DOT) in the underlying action alleging that a newly-constructed median in the highway abutting property owned by Legacy Land Company effected a taking entitling it to compensation, holding that there was no error.The DOT constructed the median at issue as part of a highway improvement project. While the median did not eliminate access to the property owned by Legacy, it did change the access because vehicles could no longer make a left turn directly into the Legacy property and those leaving the property could only turn right onto the highway. The district court granted summary judgment for the DOT. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, although the median's construction affected the ease with which vehicles traveling east could access Legacy's property, the record did not support Legacy's claim that the median substantially impaired its right of access. View "S.D. Dep’t Of Transportation v. Legacy Land Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated a portion of the circuit court's decision concerning public comment at some of the board meetings held by Rapid City Area School District 51-4 (RCAS) and affirmed the court's decision not to review a determination made by a state's attorney concerning an alleged violation of a separate open meeting statute, holding that the first issue was nonjusticiable.Plaintiffs commenced this action against RCAS seeking a declaration that RCAS was acting contrary to South Dakota's open meeting law by not allowing public comment at some of its board meetings. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of RCAS and concluded that it could not review the state's attorney's determination. The Supreme Court (1) vacated the portion of the circuit court's decision concerning public comment, holding that there was no longer a live controversy regarding the interpretation of "regularly scheduled official meeting" as used in S.D. Codified Laws 1-25-1, and therefore, the issue was moot; and (2) affirmed the court's decision not to review the state's attorney's determination, holding that S.D. Codified Laws chapter 1-25 did not confer jurisdiction upon circuit courts to review the actions of a state's attorney taken under S.D. Codified Laws 1-25-6. View "SD Citizens For Liberty, Inc. v. Rapid City Area School" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the determination of the circuit court that the Day County Board of Adjustment could reconsider and modify a previously-granted variance, holding that the Board of Adjustment no longer had the authority to reconsider the variance when it did so.Appellants were informed that their property violated the Day County Planning and Zoning Ordinance because they altered the grading and added rocks. Appellant subsequently sought a variance from the ordinance allowing the existing grading and rocks to remain. The Board of Adjustment unanimously approved the application. The Board subsequently reconsidered the variance and modified it. Appellants later applied for a permit to build a house on their property. The Board of Adjustment denied the application because Appellants had not complied with the modified variance. The circuit court denied Appellants' request for relief and dismissed their complaint. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the Board of Adjustment did not reconsider the variance before the appeal time expired, Appellants were entitled to a declaration of their rights under the variance the Board granted. View "Gonsor v. Day County Planning Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant's requests for writs of mandamus and certiorari to reverse the Clay County Board of Adjustment's decision affirming the order of the Clay County Planning Commission denying Appellant's proposed conditional use permit, holding that the circuit court erred in dismissing the writ of certiorari as untimely.In denying Appellant's requests, the circuit court determined that the petition for writ of certiorari was untimely and that a writ of mandamus was not an available remedy. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in denying the writ of mandamus; but (2) erred in determining that it did not have jurisdiction to consider the writ of certiorari. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether Appellant's petition seeking a writ of certiorari was timely filed. View "Hauck v. Clay County Commission" on Justia Law