SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Chief United States District Judge for South Dakota Roberto Lange ordered Tuesday that a preliminary injunction should go into effect in a case between Dakotans for Health and the Minnehaha County Commission.
The commission on May 2 instituted a new policy requiring those gathering petitions for a ballot issue to stay within designated areas in front of the Minnehaha County Courthouse and Minnehaha County Administration Building. You can read the 35-page ruling attached below.
Dakotans for Health issued a statement on the order Wednesday, calling it a ‘resounding victory for freedom of speech.’
“Judge Lange’s decision granting a preliminary injunction against Minnehaha County to restrict free speech on the Courthouse campus makes it possible for Dakotans for Health to continue to collect hundreds of signatures every week for our Roe v. Wade petition and for our petition to eliminate the state’s 4.2% sales tax on groceries,” said Adam Weiland, Co-Founder of Dakotans for Health.
The statement went on to state that the order by Lange “underscores the importance of safeguarding fundamental rights, including the right to express oneself freely and engage in peaceful assembly.”
Lange’s order prevents the county from enforcing any part of their new ‘Limited Use Policy’ that required ‘check-ins’ with the County Auditor, or restriction of petition gatherers to ‘designated area.’
Newly elected Minnehaha County Auditor Leah Anderson requested the new policy and told commissioners the previous policy wasn’t clear enough.
“We’ve witnessed an increase in activity with those collecting signatures, but also those who wish to share a message of opposition,” Anderson said. “We would like to have better control over the activities that take place on the campus.”
The county’s new Limited Use Policy, which was passed by commissioners 5-0 on May, established designated areas for people gathering signatures in front of the Minnehaha County Administration building and courthouse.
In his order imposing the injunction, Lange looked at the relative harm that would be inflicted on each party, noting that the plaintiffs had shown irreparable harm due to the loss of their First Amendment freedoms.
“On the one hand, Plaintiffs face possible interruption of their First Amendment rights,” wrote Lange. “On the other hand, entry of a preliminary injunction requires Defendants and their employees to endure the nuisance of petition circulators and blockers near the exterior doors on the west side of the Administration Building.”
This nuisance, Lange contended, could be mitigated by better enforcing the prior Public Use Policy, which already barred signature gatherers from blocking entrances and sidewalks, and form gathering signatures inside the building.
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