Petersen v. S.D. Bd. Of Pardons and Paroles, 2018 SD 39: Defendant was convicted of additional felonies while in prison, and the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles (“SDBPP”) redetermined defendant’s initial parole-eligibility date.  Defendant requested a review of the redetermination and SDBPP held a hearing, issued findings of fact and conclusions of law, and entered an order setting the initial parole-eligibility date.  Defendant did not appeal, but two years later, requested a review of her parole date that was denied, and defendant appealed that denial.  The circuit court ruled that the SDBPP’s letter declining to review defendant’s parole date was not an appealable “decision, order, or action” under SDCL 1-26-30.2 and dismissed the appeal with prejudice.

The Supreme Court of South Dakota agreed with the trial court, finding that defendant’s interpretation would mean that inmates would have the right to unlimited hearings before the SDBPP and to circuit court appeals concerning their paroles dates without any change in facts.  Absent a change in circumstances, once an inmate’s parole date has been administratively reviewed, the SDBPP is not required to provide additional reviews at the discretion of the inmate.  Thus, the Supreme Court of South Dakota affirmed the circuit court’s decision, finding that said court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear defendant’s appeal.

Zwarts v. Penning, 2018 SD 40: Plaintiffs owned agricultural property located upstream and to the north of defendant’s agricultural property.  A stream runs across the two parcels in a southeasterly direction.  In 2008, defendant installed a drain-tile system, which discharges into the above-referenced stream.  At that same time, defendant also had an earthen berm across an artificial ditch that diverted surface runoff from the plaintiffs’ parcel toward defendant’s surface inlet.  In 2010, plaintiffs applied for a county-drainage permit to install a drain-tile system on their land.  Plaintiffs also obtained a waiver from defendant to connect the two drain-tile systems.  The parties further agreed that if defendant’s land became overwhelmed because of the connection, the plaintiffs would install their own tile line independent of defendant’s.

In 2011 and 2012, defendant experienced flooding, believing that the connection of the drain-tile systems was causing an overload.  Defendant then granted plaintiff a waiver to install their own independent tile line underneath defendant’s property.  In June or July of 2012, defendant installed a restrictor plate at the property line to partially block the flow of water from the plaintiffs’ drain-tile system.  In 2013, defendant removed his earthen berm.  That same year, plaintiffs discovered and removed the restrictor plate after ponding occurred on their land.  Plaintiffs subsequently filed a complaint against defendant.  Thereafter, defendant applied for a permit to disconnect his drain-tile system from the plaintiffs’, which was granted and disconnected and ultimately caused plaintiffs’ drain-tile system to be ineffective.  Defendant than revoked his permission to allow plaintiff to install their own tile across his field.  Plaintiffs amended their complaint to allege that defendant unlawfully blocked a natural drainage way; committed trespass by causing water to pond on their land, breach of contract; and requesting an order allowing them to reconnect their system to defendant’s.

The trial court determined that defendant violated civil drainage law by obstructing a natural watercourse, awarded plaintiff damages, and awarded plaintiff an easement to install and maintain an independent tile line under defendant’s property.  Defendant appealed.  First, the Supreme Court of South Dakota held that, because the parties’ agreement controls, the issue need not be decided under the civil law rule.  Second, the court found that there would be no injustice from the enforcement of the promises made between the parties and that plaintiffs were entitled to an easement and crop damages based on promissory estoppel.  Lastly, the Supreme Court of South Dakota reversed the trial court’s finding that defendant committed a trespass by causing water to pool on plaintiffs’ property, as trespass does not occur where one simply causes water to remain on as opposed to enter another’s land.  Moreover, the court affirmed that the plaintiffs also did not commit any trespass against defendant as the parties’ agreement permitted plaintiffs to discharge water into defendant’s drain-tile system.