That is the latest confusion that transpired Thursday and Friday in the months-old battle by Stephanie Strong of Rapid City against a prominent Republican legislator from Rapid City, House Speaker Brian Gosch.
Strong filed an appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court on Wednesday asking the justices to overturn a long string of circuit court actions in her challenge that Gosch illegally notarized his candidacy petition.
Strong, who is representing herself and isn’t a lawyer, assumed that would mean any further action at the circuit court level would be suspended until the Supreme Court looked at her appeal.
Gosch already had a hearing scheduled for Friday before Circuit Judge Kathleen Trandahl at the Hughes County courthouse in his pursuit of attorney fees and costs.
On Thursday, the judge informed the various parties directly or indirectly in the case that the hearing wouldn’t be held. That was at 2:51 p.m. CDT.
One hour and five minutes later, the judge reversed herself. In another email, she let the various sides know the hearing was back on schedule for 11 a.m. CDT Friday.
Gosch’s lawyer, Sara Frankenstein of Rapid City, drove four hours through the snow Friday morning to participate. Sitting with her in the courtroom was an assistant state attorney general, Rich Williams, representing Secretary of State Jason Gant.
The other table was empty. Strong didn’t show up.
“It was called off,” Strong said Friday afternoon by telephone. “Then I took off for Gillette.”
Strong said the attorney fees and costs are specifically mentioned in the appeal to the Supreme Court. She said she sent the judge an email Thursday morning asking for dismissal of the hearing and included a copy of her appeal.
Strong said a deputy clerk of court told her later on Thursday that the hearing wouldn’t be held.
“I didn’t get any calls from the courthouse saying the hearing was still on,” she said Friday.
The first she knew that the hearing was to be held, she said, was after it was over and she received a phone call from one of the reporters who had covered the hearing.
Strong said she first began to challenge Gosch’s candidacy on June 25 when she filed a complaint with the Rapid City police. She waited for two months without action from the state attorney general and from the secretary of state.
Then she filed the civil suit against Gant seeking that Gosch be removed from the ballot. Strong said Friday she was shuffled through six different circuit judges in Pennington County before Robert Mandel agreed to hear her case on Oct. 2.
Then Frankenstein intervened on behalf of Gosch and the Pennington County Republican Party. The case was moved to Hughes County circuit court in Pierre because Gant’s office is in the state Capitol a few blocks away.
There she found herself shuffled again through three judges and wound up before Judge Trandahl. On Dec. 28, the judge dismissed Strong’s lawsuit after a telephonic hearing.
Strong taped the hearing and provided a copy of the recording to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper, which briefly posted it on its website. Strong also offered copies to the Rapid City Journal and the Madville Times blog.
Strong said Friday she didn’t know that the recording was against court rules.