United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division
THOMAS POOR BEAR, DON DOYLE, CHERYL D. BETTELYOUN, and JAMES RED WILLOW, Plaintiffs,
THE COUNTY OF JACKSON, a political subdivision and public corporation organized under the laws of the state of South Dakota; THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR THE COUNTY OF JACKSON, a political subdivision and public corporation organized under the laws of the state of South Dakota; VICKI WILSON, in her official capacity as Jackson County Auditor; GLEN BENNETT, in his official capacity as Jackson County Commissioner; LARRY DENKE, in his official capacity as Jackson County Commissioner; LARRY JOHNSTON, in his official capacity as Jackson County Commissioner; JIM STILLWELL, in his official capacity as Jackson County Commissioner; and RON TWISS, in his official capacity as Jackson County Commissioner, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO
E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
seek injunctive and declaratory relief that will require
defendants to establish a satellite office for voter
registration and in-person absentee voting in the town of
Wanblee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Docket 1.
Defendants move to dismiss the complaint on grounds of
ripeness. Docket 45. For the following reasons, the motion to
dismiss is granted.
are enrolled members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who reside on
the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Jackson County, South
Dakota. Defendants are entities and individuals responsible
for managing elections in Jackson County. All individual
defendants are named as defendants in their official
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, located in southwestern South
Dakota, encompasses the southern half of Jackson County.
Wanblee is the most populous city in the portion of Jackson
County that is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Wanblee
is located roughly 27 miles from Kadoka, the county seat of
Jackson County. Approximately 90 percent of Wanblee's
population is Native American.
filed this action on September 18, 2014. The complaint
alleges that the defendants violated both the Voting Rights
Act and the Fourteenth Amendment by providing an in-person
voter registration and in-person absentee voting office in
Kadoka, but not in Wanblee. Plaintiffs seek to establish a
permanent satellite office in Wanblee for in-person
registration and in-person absentee voting. Plaintiffs also
seek an order mandating that Jackson County obtain
preclearance from the United States Attorney General for any
future changes to election procedures that would remove the
October 10, 2014, plaintiffs moved for a preliminary
injunction, which sought to require Jackson County to
establish a satellite office in Wanblee for the time period
leading up to the general election on November 4, 2014. On
October 15, 2014, the parties participated in a settlement
conference before United States Magistrate Judge Veronica
Duffy. After the settlement conference, Jackson County agreed
to fund a satellite office for the remaining time period
leading up to the 2014 general election.
November 13, 2015, the Jackson County Commission formed an
agreement with the South Dakota Secretary of State's
Office (SDSOS), and it passed Resolutions #2015-15 and
#2015-16. The agreement established that SDSOS will provide
funds necessary to operate a satellite office in Wanblee
during all federal primary and general elections through
January 1, 2023. The agreement provides that SDSOS will
"reimburse Jackson County, from the State's
state-held HAVA account, various amounts needed as shown
by appropriate reimbursement forms and applicable receipts,
up to the amount of sixty-one thousand, six hundred
eighty-four dollars ($61, 684) to be used for an in-person
absentee satellite voting site in accordance with the State
HAVA plan[.]" Docket 47-10 at 3. The Jackson County
Commission adopted the terms of the agreement with SDSOS in
Resolution #2015-15. Docket 47-11. Resolution #2015-16
established that Jackson County shall fund a satellite office
in Wanblee from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., during week days, for the
statutory absentee voting period leading up to primary and
general elections for the election years of 2016, 2018, 2020,
and 2022. Docket 47-12. With funding in place for
the satellite office, defendants move to dismiss the
complaint on grounds of ripeness. Docket 45.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides that a court may
dismiss an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1); Osborn v. United States, 918
F.2d 724, 729 (8th Cir. 1990). Under a motion to dismiss
based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the defendant
may challenge either the plaintiff's complaint on its
face or the factual deficiencies of the claims. Titus v.
Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 593 (8th Cir. 1993) (citing
Osborn, 918 F.2d at 729 n.6). A motion to dismiss
based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction can be raised at
any time under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3). And
if at any time the court concludes that "it lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the
action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). "Ripeness is
peculiarly a question of timing and is governed by the
situation at the time of review, rather than the situation at
the time of the events under review." Iowa League of
Cities v. E.P.A., 711 F.3d 844, 867 (8th Cir. 2013)
(quotations and citations omitted).
carry the burden of establishing that jurisdiction exists.
V S Ltd. P'ship v. Dep't of Hous. & Urban
Dev., 235 F.3d 1109, 1112 (8th Cir. 2000) (citation
omitted). "Because at issue in a factual 12(b)(1) motion
is the trial court's jurisdiction-its very power to hear
the case-there is substantial authority that the trial court
is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the
existence of its power to hear the case."
Osborn, 918 F.2d at 730. Thus, the existence of
disputed material facts does not prevent the trial court from
analyzing the merits of the jurisdictional claims, and no
presumption of truthfulness must attach to the facts alleged
in the complaint. Id.
claim that sufficient funding for the satellite office is
secure through 2022. Therefore, defendants argue that the
case is not ripe for review because it does not pose a purely
legal issue and the development of additional facts will aid
judicial review. Defendants also claim that potential harm
stemming from delayed review is speculative and uncertain to
respond that the agreement between Jackson County and SDSOS
does not resolve all the future satellite office issues
because it fails to address local elections that occur during
non-federal elections. Plaintiffs also argue that the Jackson
County Commission is not bound by the agreement because
funding from SDSOS is not guaranteed. Finally, plaintiffs
submit that defendants' "voluntary ...