Local lawyer wins Supreme Court appeal

Flandreau lawyer Bob Pesall has won a South Dakota Supreme Court appeal on an issue involving landowner compensation for property values.

Montana Dakota Utilities vs. Parkshill Farms is a case in Day County in which the utility company wanted to use eminent domain efforts to complete a power line project that went through private property. On four issues appealed to the Supreme Court when it met at the University of South Dakota law school in October, Pesall won on the question of how property values should be decided. The high court said the broader impact of the utility’s power lines must be taken into consideration and remanded the case back to the district court in Day County.

Landowners represented by Pesall wanted the jury to be instructed to consider not just the power line project, which is nearly complete at this point, but also the rights that had to be given up for future decisions by the utility, Pesall said. The case involved the company having the option to use guidewires, for example, even though the project hasn’t included that. He argued that landowners had to be compensated for the rights they give up whether the utility company uses those rights.

The decision from the court was granted in December.

Cases before the Supreme Court when it meets at the law school draw a crowd, including law students and other lawyers. “These cases are typically ones that are significant public interest,” he said.

Pesall said the files have now been returned to Day County and the two sides can get together and determine whether they can work out an agreement or if the case will be heard in court again.

This is the second time Pesall has won an appeal at the higher court level. He also won several years ago in a criminal case, State vs. Larson, which dealt with a procedural rule.

Pesall also has a case being reviewed by the Supreme Court this month. The case in Moody County involves an agriculture drainage issue.

Pesall, 42, is a Brookings native and has lived and worked 11 years in Flandreau, where his mother graduated from high school and he still has family here. He is a defense lawyer in criminal cases, including court-appointed cases when defendants lack the ability to pay for their own lawyers. He also serves on the Flandreau City Council.

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