SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled it agrees with a circuit court ruling to unseal search warrant affidavits related to the investigation into T. Denny Sanford.
The Supreme Court announced its decision in a 15-page document Thursday morning. You can view the ruling in the document below.
The ruling was written by Chief Justice Steven Jensen and the decision to affirm was 5-0 by the court. Justice Mark Salter recused himself from the Sanford case and former Chief Justice David Gilbertson sat on the court in replace of him.
Angelia Gries, with the Minnehaha Clerk of Courts office, told KELOLAND News if there is no petition for a rehearing, the documents would return to the circuit court to be released in late April.
KELOLAND News has reached out to Sanford’s lawyer, Stacy Hegge, to see if Sanford plans to request a rehearing or appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hegge told KELOLAND News there’s “no comment at this time.”
The documents are in a single file in the Minnehaha County Clerk of Court’s office and ProPublica and the Argus Leader have filed requests to unseal the files. The State would not allow the documents to be unsealed until after the investigation was over but the state has filed notice its investigation is completed.
Sanford was investigated for child pornography and was never charged. Sanford’s lawyers wanted the court to keep search warrants and other documents from the investigation sealed.
“In ordering the affidavits to be unsealed, the circuit court concluded that nothing in SDCL 23A-35-4.1, this Court’s interpretation of that statute in Implicated Individual I, or the circuit court’s amended orders required the Press to make a formal request to unseal the affidavits,” the decision states. “The court also rejected the Marsy’s Law and Due Process constitutional claims as well as Sanford’s argument that there were questions whether the State’s investigation had concluded.”
The state filed notice of a completed investigation with the circuit court on May 27, 2022.
“Following the completion of the State’s criminal investigation involving T. Denny Sanford, also known as Implicated Individual 1, the circuit court entered an order to unseal the search warrant affidavits related to the investigation. Sanford appeals, challenging the denial of his request to inspect and participate in redacting the affidavits before the circuit court unseals them. We affirm,” the ruling states.
The highest court heard oral arguments on the case two weeks ago in Brookings.
Roger Baron, a former longtime law school professor at the University of South Dakota, has written about SD Supreme Court rulings for more than a decade.
“This is probably the quickest ruling I’ve seen,” Baron told KELOLAND News. “This opinion was written very quickly. This is not a court order. This is a judicial opinion and it was reviewed very quickly by each of the participating justices and signed off on.”
Baron did find a decision made by the SD Supreme Court in seven days regarding the South Dakota State Senate in 2007.
Baron also pointed out the latest ruling cites a previous Supreme Court ruling authored by Justice Salter, who recused himself from this ruling. Baron also noted the Supreme Court could have made a summary dismissal of the appeal without hearing oral arguments and issuing a full opinion.
“There’s certainly a sense that we’ve been down this road before and that might have been one of the underlying reasons why the court acted so quickly,” Baron said.
Baron added there’s still an option by Sanford’s lawyer for a rehearing or an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I don’t see, from my perspective, any federal issues or constitutional issues that would be grounds for asking the (U.S.) Supreme Court to get involved,” Baron said.