South Dakota Supreme Court eases legislative conflict of interest rules

The South Dakota Supreme Court has overturned longstanding precedent and previous decisions of its own, allowing lawmakers to more freely enter into state contracts.

In a 29-page ruling, the court declared that legislators could now enter into most state contracts, departing from previous stricter interpretations on conflicts of interest.

The opinion distinguishes between contracts authorized through general appropriations bills, and those initiated by specific legislation.

The decision was not unanimous. Justice Janine Kern was the lone dissenter, writing in her own 11-page opinion that the majority’s interpretation disregarded established precedent. Kern agreed, though, with the majority that a conflict can only arise if a lawmaker voted on a specific law during their time in the Legislature.

Gov. Kristi Noem had been awaiting this decision before making make appointments to two empty legislative seats.


February 12, 2024