Considered on Briefs Nov. 4, 2013.
Casey Bridgman, Wessington Springs, South Dakota, Pro se plaintiff and appellant.
Dedrich R. Koch, Wessington Springs, South Dakota, Pro se defendant and appellee.
[¶ 1.] Alleging violations of South Dakota's election laws, the former Jerauld County State's Attorney brought a quo warranto action to oust the newly-elected state's attorney. The circuit court denied relief.
[¶ 2.] Dedrich Koch is a resident of Buffalo County, South Dakota. In March 2012, he filed a declaration of candidate for the public office of Jerauld County State's Attorney as a Republican and filed a nominating petition. He declared under oath that he was eligible to seek the office and if nominated and elected would qualify and serve in that office. On June 5, 2012, Koch won the primary election against incumbent Casey Bridgman, who had held the office since 2008. Koch ran unopposed in the general election and was deemed elected under SDCL 12-16-1.1.
[¶ 3.] On May 29, 2012, Koch filed a declaration of candidate for the public office of Buffalo County State's Attorney as an Independent and filed a nominating petition. He declared under oath that he was eligible to seek the office and if elected would qualify and serve in that office. In November 2012, Koch won the general election in Buffalo County. But he advised Buffalo County officials in December that he did not intend to take the office because " of ongoing litigation in Jerauld County stemming from [his] election in both counties."
[¶ 4.] In January 2013, Koch took the oath of office as the Jerauld County State's Attorney and filed the requisite bond. He demanded under SDCL 3-14-2 that Bridgman vacate the office and turn over all public money, books, records, accounts, papers, documents, and property in his possession or under his control belonging or appertaining to the office. Bridgman refused and brought a quo warranto action, claiming that he was qualified for and entitled to the office and that Koch did not qualify for and was not entitled to the office of Jerauld County State's Attorney.
[¶ 5.] By written argument to the circuit court, Bridgman averred that Koch was not entitled to the office on the grounds that (1) Koch violated election statutes SDCL 12-6-3 and SDCL 12-7-1 by declaring candidacy for two public offices, (2) SDCL 7-16-31 unconstitutionally removes the residency requirement for the public office of state's attorney, (3) Koch's election to two public offices disenfranchised the voters, (4) SDCL 7-16-31 is a special law interfering with Jerauld County's governance of the county, and (5)
SDCL 7-16-31 violates South Dakota's Equal Protection Clause, S.D. Const. article VI, § 18. The circuit court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law, ruling that Koch was the rightful holder of the office and was legally entitled to it. Bridgman was ordered to turn over all books, papers, and property of the office to Koch. Bridgman appeals.
Analysis and Decision
[¶ 6.] " The circuit court has the power to issue writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, quo warranto, certiorari, and all other writs necessary to carry into effect its judgments, decrees, and orders, and to give to it a general control over inferior courts, officers, boards, tribunals, corporations, and persons." SDCL 16-6-15. Since the facts here are undisputed, and the suitability of Bridgeman's claim for quo warranto relief is a question of law, ...