Attorney General impeachment trial rules

The interview posted above is from SDPB’s daily public affairs show, In the Moment with Lori Walsh.

Lori Walsh:
Real quick, could you remind us why the Senate is holding a trial to consider whether to remove Ravnsborg from office?

Lee Strubinger:

Ravnsborg was driving a car that struck and killed Boever in September 2020, while Boever was walking along a rural highway.

House lawmakers voted earlier this month to impeach Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg on two separate articles—one for crimes that led to the death of Joe Boever. The other for malfeasance in office, which says Ravnsborg used his office to benefit the investigation into the crash.

Lori Walsh:
OK. So, the impeachment articles are now in the senate. The Senate established itself as a court and also adopted rules for an upcoming impeachment trial. What do those rules look like?

Lee Strubinger:
Senators will vote on two questions. Whether Ravnsborg should be removed from office. And whether he should be disqualified from future office. Both require a two-thirds majority vote.

States Attorneys Mark Vargo and Alexis Tracy of Pennington and Clay counties [TS1] will present the case for impeachment. Michael Butler is the attorney representing Ravnsborg.

Each side will get six hours to present their case. There will be no time limit for Ravnsborg if he chooses to testify.

Butler requested more time, but no senators made a motion to increase it.

Republican Senator Lee Schoenbeck leads the state Senate. He says the process fairly protects the rights of the attorney general to present his testimony.

SD Senator Lee Schoebeck:
“These rules are designed to be a very simple and fair process. It is critically important that people understand this is not a criminal trial, this is not a civil trial.”

Lee Strubinger:
Schoenbeck and other Senators say this trial is a political trial.

Lori Walsh:
And what does that mean?

Lee Strubinger:
I had the same question. So I reached out to Michael Card, a political scientist at the University of South Dakota. A familiar voice on this program.

He says the US concept of impeachment comes from the Federalist papers… written by some of the founding fathers.

Federalist 65 deals with the role of the Senate in impeachment and a Senate trial.

Card says Publius lays out that Senators must weigh violations of public trust, which is a political question.

Definition for impeachable offenses were treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors…

Card says definition for high crimes and misdemeanors was intentional to leave ambiguity and room for interpretation within the realm of impeachment.

Michael Card Ph.D.:
“But, Pubulus went on to say the jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of men. Or in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

Lee Strubinger:
Senators will convene on June 21 and 22 to hold the impeachment trial.