SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Questions remain surrounding the trial and potential impeachment of South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
On Friday, Ravnsborg’s attorney Tim Rensch entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf to the charges using a mobile device while operating a vehicle, making an illegal lane chance and careless driving. The next court date has not been announced.
The legislature, meanwhile, has taken a large step back from the situation, opting to wait until the legal process has run its course evaluating “whether articles of impeachment against Jason Ravnsborg, Attorney General of the State of South Dakota, are necessary.”
This is a sharp change in tact from the original plan as drafted in House Resolution 7001, which when introduced called for the adoption of two articles of impeachment for “acts causing the death of Joseph Boever” and “other acts following the death of Joseph Boever.”
In an attempt to provide some clarity about what we can expect as the weeks progress, KELOLAND News reached out to Michael Card, an associate professor of political science at the University of South Dakota, who has been keeping a close eye on the process as it has unfolded.
“It’s the first time that an impeachment has gone this far [in South Dakota],” Card said. “A couple of officials have been discussed, being subject to impeachment, but to my knowledge, the legislative research council has not adopted or drafted articles of impeachment previous to this.”
Due to the state’s relative inexperience with impeachment, the path to a resolution can seem murky. Card outlined some of the possibilities.
With the House punting the issue of impeachment down the road, the focus at the moment is on the legal case against Ravnsborg. In discussing this, Card weighed in on some strategies Ravnsborg’s team may be seeking.
Card also tells us that the non-committal language within the amended resolution could indicate a lack of appetite among the legislature for an impeachment.
“I know that there was some opposition to the House pursuing impeachment of the attorney general,” Card said. “He was, at least before this event, was a very popular Republican politician around the state. I suspect there are many that would like to see him remain in office, but it will be interesting if he is found guilty, if he pleads no contest, ends up being found guilty and sentenced, what will occur.”
Despite the attorney general’s positive history however, Card expressed some doubt about Ravnsborg’s political future.
With the 96th legislative session now nearly over, House leadership has made it clear that any further attempt at impeachment would require a special session, which requires written support from two-thirds of a chamber’s members or a call from the governor.
At this point, Governor Kristi Noem, who has publicly called for Ravnsborg’s resignation, has stated that she does not believe a special session is needed for impeachment and doesn’t see it as her role to call one.