PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Thomas Denny Sanford of Sioux Falls was the ‘implicated individual’ whose attorneys argued shouldn’t be publicly identified in a case that the South Dakota Supreme Court recently decided against the Sioux Falls billionaire.
The Supreme Court publicly released the identifying documents Wednesday, after an appeal period expired without Sanford’s attorneys asking the court to rehear the case following its October 27, 2021, decision.
Sanford’s name was on five search warrants. Pro Publica and the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper sought that information. Pro Publica identified Sanford in a news story regarding a child-pornography investigation.
Supreme Court Justice Mark Salter wrote the unanimous decision. “Notwithstanding the skilled advocacy on behalf of the parties, the question we confront here is not a close one,” Salter stated.
The five justices upheld the decision that Circuit Judge James Power made last year.
State law allows courts to seal affidavits of investigators seeking search warrants, but courts cannot prohibit disclosure that a supporting affidavit was filed.
Wrote Justice Salter, “It may well be that allowing courts the sole discretion to seal all search warrant records states a better or more pragmatic approach, but this is not the current state of the law. The Legislature has enacted SDCL 23A-35-4.l, and nothing in our current rules conflicts with the statute’s provisions. To the contrary, our rules specifically contemplate the role of statutory authority in resolving questions concerning access to court records. We can no more overlook SDCL 23A35-4.l than we could ignore binding legal authority in this or any case that comes before us.”