SD justices weigh whether a person’s court-shielded identity must be publicly released

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Lawyers for two news organizations Tuesday told the South Dakota Supreme Court that state law requires the subject’s name on a search warrant to be publicly available.

But the person’s lawyer said South Dakota’s courts control their records and he urged the justices to harmonize two conflicting laws in favor of his client.

Marty Jackley of Pierre, a past U.S. attorney and state attorney general argued to the justices that the person was incorrectly listed as a defendant.

“What will be released is a search warrant that is an admitted error,” Jackley said.

Jeffrey Beck of Sioux Falls represents ProPublica. He argued that a state law must be followed barring judges in many instances from sealing search-warrant information, such as that a supporting affidavit was filed, the contents of the warrant, the return of the warrant and the inventory.

“And we’re asking for those forms, that are presumptively public,” Beck said. Regarding the protected individual, he added, “This is a citizen saying, ‘I want my name removed from it because it’s embarrassing.'”

Jon Arneson of Sioux Falls represents the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper. “We have a statute that is pretty clear. It says the stuff is going to be open,” Arneson said.

Arneson recalled past instances when he appeared before the South Dakota Supreme Court representing news media and was told that he had good arguments but needed to see the Legislature about changing the law in question. He said the Supreme Court was now in a similar situation.

Jackley, representing the implicated individual, said the Supreme Court has the authority to order that the file remain sealed and to order that identifying information be removed or redacted to protect the person. He repeated that an error was made “that will deeply affect privacy interest.”

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