Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station
Bret Healy lawsuit
Bret Healy has filed more than 10 state and federal lawsuits contesting matters involving the family ranch.

Court sanctions Healy, lawyer over family ranch feud

PUKWANA, S.D.  — Bret Healy and his family have battled publicly over control of a ranch near Pukwana for several years. He first took his family to court in South Dakota’s First Circuit in 2017, saying the family corporation did not have the legal right to sell land.

Since then, Healy with his attorney Tucker Volesky, have repeatedly filed lawsuits against Healy’s relatives and others over stock and land ownership regarding the family ranch.

Healy has filed more than 10 state and federal lawsuits contesting matters involving the family ranch, including one against the South Dakota Supreme Court that U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange ordered on December 14, 2023, to be dismissed, in part because of judicial immunity.

Now both have been financially sanctioned by a South Dakota court.

State Circuit Judge Patrick Smith issued a sanction of $240,000 against the plaintiff in the cases, Bret Healy, for violations of a South Dakota law that bars court filings “for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation.”

“Bret Healy has subjected the current parties, other family members, and past attorneys to numerous amounts of litigation with numerous arguments that erroneously claim ownership of certain land, and corporate stock,” Judge Smith wrote in the decision that was issued Friday.

Judge Smith noted that the South Dakota Supreme Court of South Dakota hasn’t addressed the issue of a state circuit court imposing sanctions on a party and attorney on its own motion, but said the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld sanctions issued by federal district courts.

Healy is a former executive director of the South Dakota Democratic Party and currently is treasurer of the Four Directions Native Vote non-profit. One of the family members he has sued is Bryce Healy, a former state commissioner of school and public lands. Volesky is a 2019 graduate of the University of South Dakota School of Law and has practiced in Huron with his father, Ron.

In ordering the sanctions, Judge Smith wrote:

“Bret was ordered to pay attorney fees by the Circuit Court and the Supreme Court, totaling $120,390.02. Further, Bret was ordered to pay sanctions by the Federal Court, and the amounts are still being considered. This has not deterred him. Mr. Volesky is duty bound to scrutinize every claim he files, and to review the appropriateness of each. This has not been done.

“Rule 11 provides that an action for sanctions is proper if it is shown that the litigation is brought for an improper purpose such as harassment, for claims brought that have no basis in law, for claims that have no basis to assert that a modification or reversal of existing law will ultimately support such claims, and that such lack of support for any claim is excusable due to a lack of information. Here, they are, they do not, they do not, and they are inexcusable.

“Past sanctions have had no effect on Bret Healy, despite totaling over $120,000.00. Mr. Volesky has not been deterred or counseled his client on the wisdom of pursing frivolous actions. It is the intent of this Court to impress upon Mr. Healy that his actions have consequences and should not continue, and the finding of this Court that the doubling of his past sanctions will do so.”

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