South Dakota Supreme Court set to hear cases this week in Vermillion

KELOLAND.com Original

VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) – The South Dakota Supreme Court is set to hear several cases from a city-limits dispute to murder appeals and an update in the GEAR UP case.

🔴 KELOLAND News will be live streaming several of the cases on KELOLAND.com.

Here are some of the highlights expected this week:

State v. Buffalo Chip

This case will be heard on Monday morning at the USD Law School. State v. Buffalo Chip is all about Buffalo Chip City, a newly founded city just outside Sturgis.

This case is important because Sturgis is home to the annual motorcycle rally. Buffalo Chip is a popular campground during the rally.

Timeline

  • 2015: Residents petitioned the Meade County Board of County Commissioners to incorporate the campground as a city. At the time the law stated:

“No municipality shall be incorporated which contains less than one hundred legal residents or less than thirty voters.”

SDCL 9-3-1 (in 2015)
  • 2015: The board held a hearing and decided the area had more than thirty registered voters and that more than a quarter of those voters signed a petition. They decided Buffalo Chip could incorporate.
  • May 7, 2015: An election was held for voters to decide to incorporate. The vote passed.
  • 2015: The city files articles of incorporation with the South Dakota Secretary of State.
  • 2015: Several Meade County residents and the City of Sturgis appealed the decision and went to court.
  • 2016: The circuit court void the incorporation of Buffalo Chip City. The court found the Meade County’s board procedural processes and deficiencies in the petitioner’s filings the reason.
  • 2017: Buffalo Chip City and the Meade County Board of County Commissioners appealed the ruling to the South Dakota Supreme Court.
  • Jan. 28, 2018: The South Dakota Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s ruling because the justices said the City of Sturgis and the Meade County residents weren’t able to challenge the decision, only the State of South Dakota could (since Buffalo Chip is already acting as a municipality).
  • May 29, 2018: The state filed a legal action to vacate the city’s incorporation.
  • 2018: Buffalo Chip City asks the court to dismiss the case because it argues the state doesn’t have the authority to dissolve a city.
  • 2018: The Circuit Court rules against Buffalo Chip City and decides the case can move forward.
  • 2018: The two sides debated the interpretation of the law (SDCL 9-3-1) and one key word in it – or.

“No municipality shall be incorporated which contains less than one hundred legal residents or less than thirty voters.”

SDCL 9-3-1 (in 2015)
  • The court decides that common sense and plain language would say the legislature really meant: “No municipality shall be incorporated which contains less than one hundred legal residents and less than thirty voters.”
  • The court dissolves Buffalo Chip City.
  • 2019: Now, Buffalo Chip is appealing that decision and not it’s back at the Supreme Court.

What the court needs to decide

Buffalo Chip is asking the Supreme Court to figure out two issues:

  1. Whether the circuit court erred by allowing the State to bring an action to vacate Buffalo Chip’s Articles of Incorporation and annul Buffalo Chip City’s existence.
  2. Whether the circuit court erred by finding that SDCL 9-3-1 required both one hundred legal residents and thirty voters in the area before the Meade County Commission could set an election.

It should be noted too, the South Dakota Legislature has updated the law to include AND instead of OR and increased the number of voters needed.

A municipality may not be incorporated unless it contains as least one hundred legal residents and at least forty-five registered voters

SDCL 9-3-1

Graff v. Children’s Care Hospital and School

Ben Graff Graff's LifeScape Investigation

On Tuesday, the court will hear a case about Ben Graff. This is a story KELOLAND Investigates has followed extensively.

As KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke reported: “Imagine being held face down 137 times, sometimes for more than one hour at a time by caregivers, over the course of six months and you had no idea what you’d done to deserve such treatment. 

That’s what a KELOLAND family says happened to their son with developmental disabilities at Children’s Care Hospital and School, which is now LifeScape.”

After a three-week jury trial, the jury ruled in favor of CCHS. In addition, CCHS asked for a reimbursement for the costs related to the trial and was awarded partial costs.

Graff’s family has appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

One part specifically the family is asking the court to look at is the exclusion of Department of Health surveys that showed any deficiencies at the facility. The court decides they weren’t relevant to the case and couldn’t be used in the trial.

What the court needs to decide

Both sides of this case have asked for the court to figure out a few issues. Graff and his family want the following issues resolved:

  1. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion, or otherwise erred, when it excluded the Department of Health surveys from evidence.
  2. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion by taxing partial costs and disbursements against Ben’s parents.

CCHS, now Lifescape, wants the court to resolve these issues:

  1. Whether the circuit court erred when it denied CCHS’s motion for summary judgment based on the statute of repose.
  2. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion when it instructed the jury that various statutes pertaining to developmentally disabled individuals applied to Ben’s claims.
  3. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion by awarding a partial amount, rather than the full amount, of costs and disbursements against Ben’s parents.

Black Bear, et al v. Mid-Central Ed. Coop., et al.

Another KELOLAND News investigation is heading to the state’s high court on Wednesday. Here’s some background on the story:

Background on the story

Since the deadly fire on Sept. 17, 2015 in Platte, SD, KELOLAND News has been investigating the GEAR UP Scandal.  We uncovered a number of issues with the $62 million in GEAR UP Grant money that came through the state since 2005.  The U.S. Department of Education awarded South Dakota the money to help prepare Native American students for college.  The State was required to match every federal dollar.  However, our investigation has shown there is no data to prove a single Native American student went to college because of GEAR UP. 

When Scott Westerhuis killed his family and himself the Pandora’s Box was opened.  Westerhuis was business manager of Mid Central Educational Cooperative, which was contracted out by the state to distribute the grant money.  Hours before Westerhuis shot his four children, ranging in age from nine to 16, along with his wife Nicole, the state let Mid Central know there were problems and it was cancelling its contract with the cooperative. 

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says after killing his family, Scott Westerhuis then set his home on fire and turned the gun on himself.  Jackley ruled that Westerhuis acted alone.

Our investigation followed the money and found that there were a number of people involved with conflicts of interest. We also discovered that the state failed to deliver on promises to students and the federal government when it came to GEAR UP. 

The case

This case is all about the students who were meant to benefit from GEAR UP. Alyssa Black Bear and Kelsey Walking Eagle-Espinosa sued Mid-Central Educational Cooperative and other defendants on behalf of the students who were supposed to benefit from the GEAR UP funds.

The court had dismissed the lawsuit for several factors and now Black Bear and Walking Eagle-Espinosa are appealing.

What the court needs to decide

Both sides of this case have asked for the court to figure out a few issues. Black Bear and Walking Eagle-Espinosa want the following issue resolved:

  1. Whether the circuit court erred in ruling that their claims are preempted by federal law.

The defendants are raising the following issues for the Supreme Court to figure out:

  1. Whether the circuit court erred in ruling that Black Bear and Walking Eagle-Espinosa have standing to bring their claims.
  2. Whether the circuit court erred in concluding that Black Bear and Walking Eagle-Espinosa effectively complied with notice requirements.
  3. Whether the circuit court erred in finding a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Black Bear and Walking Eagle-Espinosa were intended third-party beneficiaries of the agreement between SDDOE and MCEC.
  4. Whether the circuit court erred in finding a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether MCEC or its executive director can be held vicariously liable for the torts of Scott and Nicole Westerhuis.
  5. Whether the circuit court erred in finding a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether GEAR UP funds were missing or misappropriated.
  6. Whether the circuit court erred in certifying the lawsuit as a class action.

Other cases

There are several other cases happening over the three-day term at USD’s Law School.

Monday

  • Hamen v. Hamlin County
  • State v. Harruff
  • State v. Buffalo Chip

Tuesday

  • Graff v. Children’s Care Hospital and School
  • State v. Quevedo
  • Estate of Gaaskjolen

Wednesday

  • Slota v. Imhoff
  • State v. Armstrong
  • Black Bear, et al. v. Mid-Central Ed. Coop., et al.

KELOLAND News will cover many of these cases in real-time on KELOLAND.com. Watch for reports throughout the week.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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