Daniel Willard sanctioned by the court for abusive subpoenas. I win a moral victory, if not a monetary one.

“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need”
  – Rolling Stones

Well, I won.

What did I win? The court case to defend my reporter’s privilege, in the face of those who wished to use the courts to harass me because I write South Dakota’s #1 political website. As much as I’ve wanted to cheer on it, I’ve been patiently waiting while the court decide what to do about it. And how much of my attorney’s fees that Mr Willard would be paying.

What case am I referring to? The Robocall Criminal case where defendant Daniel Willard was found guilty of paying for robocalls without having the proper disclosures. As part of the trial, myself and Dan Lederman (who is suing Willard & US Senate Candidate Stace Nelson among others civilly) found ourselves subpoenaed.

What was their reasoning for dragging me into the circus? They wanted to pick my brain to see if things had been leaked to me, and – this is no lie – to see if I had used my magical technical powers to track phone calls. Which was, and remains, an idiotic presumption.

So, I fought it, and I won. I just had to hang tight so see to what degree I’d won.

This has been a long time in coming, so, what did Judge Foley have to say about it? Here’s my copy of it, in black & white:

Judge Foley’s Ruling on Subpoenas by Pat Powers

So, what were the highlights?   From page 2:

“Petitioners Powers and Lederman seek sanctions in the form of attorney’s fees and costs and in their brief claim they incurred $10,600.00 in fees to confer with counsel, research,draft, and argue all pleadings and motions in this case as it pertains to them..”

We asked for $10,600 in legal fees…..   From Page 5:

In this particular case, Mr. Arends is a veteran of the legal profession and a solo practitioner. The fees of $200.00 an hour for his work are reasonable. After a careful review of the work necessary to argue the motions and pleadings, the Court finds the hours worked on this issue to be reasonable. In fact, the Court would like to commend Mr. Arends on the fine legal work he displayed in this matter.

Judge Foley was complimentary to the thoroughness of our attorney’s work, but….

Further, as described in Guthrie, “a lessor amount of terms will still serve to send a message … and prevent further abuses.”

The Judge thought messages are more important than amounts… Wait, What? From page 6:

While the Court is sensitive to the actual attorney’s fees Mr. Arends accumulated on behalf of his clients, those fees must be weighed against the equities of the particular facts in this case. The argument that Willard should have to pay the price of forcing Lederman and Powers to go through this ordeal is strong. But the more compelling aspect of this issue is the need to impose “punitive” terms upon Willard for issuing abusive subpoenas, not necessarily making Mr. Arends’ clients whole. Mr. Arends’ work must be deemed successful; his clients paid to have their subpoenas quashed . The Court feels that success should come at a price to Mr. Arends’ clients themselves, not just Willard.

Aw, darn it. If we wanted to contest the subpoena, we had to pay for a big chunk of the privilege of doing so. Again, page 6:

As mentioned, the Court has already determined there was bad faith involved in the issuance of the two subpoenas at issue. The Court has taken the position that the issuance was done, at least in part, as a means of punishing an individual who have filed a civil suit against Willard and with whom Willard may disagree politically.

Yes, the judge recognizes that they were being jerky to us, hence the “bad faith” involved in the issuance of the two subpeonas. And the end result:

CONCLUSION: After careful consideration of the four factors provided by the South Dakota Supreme Court in Guthrie, the Court finds reasonable the imposition of sanctions in the amount of $250.00 for issuing the subpoena to Mr. Powers in bad faith, and $250.00 for issuing the subpoena to Mr. Lederman in bad faith. The Court imposes terms equaling a total of $500.00 against the defendant, Daniel Willard.

As a result of all of this, the court set the precedent that some bloggers, in this case, specifically me, are Journalists in the eyes of the law. And, that Daniel Willard was pursuing this matter against me in bad faith.

And so, I’ll just cue up the Rolling Stones on my jukebox to remind myself that “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.”

8 Replies to “Daniel Willard sanctioned by the court for abusive subpoenas. I win a moral victory, if not a monetary one.”

  1. Former Nelson Supporter

    I sense you will get another victory when Lederman is elected to Congress or Governor someday. It will serve those guys right for what they have done.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    So after reading all of that I noticed the judge kind of didn’t make a lot of sense and I’m putting my money on that portion at least being over turned if Willard appeals. I assume he is appealing and Pat you understand if he does he doesn’t have to pay you anything if he appeals this case. Just giving you aheads up so when your attorney’s bill you realize you will have to pay it out of your pocket. Also I have to say this is actually looking more like a victory for Willard because I bet your bill was around $3,0000 and if you get anything it’s only $250 so that’s kind if a bad investment Pat.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    What’s going on with the civil trial that Nelson is in? I heard the one day of trying to get a different judge and not a word since. Just curious.

    Reply
  4. George

    Stace will never win in my opinion. Everyone I talk to when I ask them about the race say he is too radical and then either bring up kicked out of caucus; robocalls or protection order against him. I can’t imagine the TV ads or the debates… If I were him I’d keep my safe legislative seat.

    Oh and before the Stace people attack me, I can’t stand Rounds. I just want an electable conservative. So It is either Rhoden or Ravnsborg for me. I’m not to enthused about Rhoden and Ravnsborg looks good but just starting.

    Boz-no chance I wish she would drop out, makes the party look bad.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Shows that the Nelson smear campaign is going well. The same “Republicans” candidates who scream their being misrepresented by their own official records are trying to push these ideas. Nelson is an actual conservative, by very definition it is the opposite of radical.

      All the talk on here, every time the race or anything remotely involved with it is mentioned? It is Nelson this Nelson that. Say what you want, it is obvious Nelson is the campaign to beat.

      Reply
  5. Les

    “””Everyone I talk to when I ask them about the race say he is too radical “””
    Everyone? Everyone I talk to says Stace who?

    “”Ravnsborg looks good”” so did that BLT I had for lunch yesterday.

    Other than Rounds, Larry is the only candidate with enough recognition to win a primary in 5 months.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      And experience in the legislature including leadership experience. He needs to compound more on the fact that he’s been elected by his peers almost all the years he’s been in since he got known within. When long timers are voting you into leadership as a new comer instead of the old timers, they obviously see something in you. But he hardly mentions it.

      Reply

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