Bill Janklow Gets Law License Back While Still On Probation

Convicted Felon And Former South Dakota Governor Has Had His License To Practice Law Reinstated, Even Though He Is Still On Probation For Killing A Motorcyclist.

In a move that stunned motorcyclists already outraged at the lenient treatment of the politician who recklessly killed a motorcyclist and then received barely more than a slap on the wrist, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that Bill Janklow can have his license to practice law reinstated February 15. That is a year before his probation ends for his felony conviction in the death of Randy Scott, who was struck and killed when Janklow ran a stop sign in his home state. Janklow is a former four-term governor of South Dakota and was one of the state's U.S. congressmen at the time of the crash.

Janklow was convicted of second-degree manslaughter but was sentenced to only 100 days incarceration, paid just $11,000 in fines and fees, and lost his law license and seat in Congress. He was sentenced to three years probation and loss of driving privileges. It was later ruled that he was acting in an official capacity when he ran the stop sign and as a result any liability fell to the U.S. government and not him personally. As a result, Randy Scott's family could not bring suit against him.

In ordering Janklow's license to practice law reinstated, the court said in part, "There was no evidence presented to suggest that the public needs protection from Janklow's conduct as an attorney."

The American Motorcyclist Association issued the following release concerning the issue:

AMA expresses outrage over reinstatement of Janklow's law license

The American Motorcyclist Association has expressed its outrage over a decision by the South Dakota Supreme Court to reinstate the law license of former Congressman Bill Janklow, who was convicted of felony manslaughter in the traffic death of a motorcyclist in 2003.

The state Supreme Court ordered on January 5 that Janklow get his law license back on February 15. Janklow, 66, a former four-term South Dakota governor before he was elected the state's sole congressman, lost his right to practice law when he was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, reckless driving, speeding and failure to stop at a stop sign in the death of motorcyclist Randy Scott, 55. Scott was killed in August 2003 when the car Janklow was driving ran a stop sign on a rural road in South Dakota at a speed estimated at about 70 mph, charging into the path of Scott's motorcycle.

Janklow could have faced up to 11 years in prison for the multiple charges. But in the end, a South Dakota judge sentenced him to only 100 days. In addition, he paid fines and fees of $11,000, lost his law license, resigned from Congress, was put on probation and lost his driver's license for three years.

In 2004, another court ruled that Janklow could escape financial liability for Scott's death under a congressional immunity statute. Janklow said that he was returning home from an event related to his duties as a congressman at the time of the crash.

"Motorcyclists across the country are shocked, outraged and dismayed that a convicted felon would be allowed to get his law license back and practice law," said Edward Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. "This sends the message that there are few consequences for the death of a motorcyclist.

"It's a sad day not only for the Scott family, but for all riders," Moreland said.

Because it involved a federal lawmaker, the Janklow case drew national media attention. But the AMA has seen dozens of cases in other states in which car drivers get off with light fines, and often no jail time, even after facing felony charges for causing the deaths of others on the highway.

In response to that dangerous trend, the AMA founded its Justice for All campaign, designed to increase penalties for those who injure or kill vulnerable road users. For more information on that program, go to www.AMADirectlink.com/justice.

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Bill Janklow in 2002.