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SD’s new Chief Justice looks to improve courthouse security

(KOTA)
Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 4:00 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - South Dakota has a new Supreme Court Chief Justice, and on Wednesday, Steven Jensen laid out the Unified Justice System’s (UJS) priorities.

In his State of the Judiciary address, Jensen said he wants to improve long-term security for South Dakota courts. Right now, six of South Dakota’s 66 counties, courthouses have full-time court security with protective measures in place for all courthouse visitors, according to a courthouse security committee formed by the UJS. Some have security when the court’s in session, others only when requested.

Additionally, Jensen said many South Dakota courthouses are due for a safety assessment, but there isn’t enough time or expertise to address and implement additional security measures.

Jensen’s solution is a full-time Court Security Coordinator. If the Legislature approves funding, the coordinator would be responsible for security in courthouses beginning in Fiscal Year 2022.

Chief Justice also asked the Legislature to consider raises for South Dakota judges this year. Comparatively, pay for South Dakota justices and circuit judges rank 51st and 49th against the rest of the U.S., Jensen argued.

Regionally, Nebraska judges by almost $40,000, Wyoming and Minnesota judges by around $30,000, and North Dakota and Iowa judges by over $15,000, Jensen said.

“I would respectfully suggest we should not trust the future of our justice system to luck,” Jensen said. “The functioning of our courts is too crucial and too important to just hope that we will find a good candidate for the next open judicial position.”

Jensen said he requested Gov. Kristi Noem provides funding for more clerk positions for counties with large caseloads, such as Minnehaha and Lincoln counties. Noem already accounted for this in her 2021 budget. Jensen also wants raises for certain UJS employees.

“The dollars I am requesting for this appropriation are not large, but the need is significant to allow us to target positions where we are simply unable to offer competitive salaries,” he said.

South Dakota courts have significantly changed since 2015. Scott Myren is the fifth new justice appointed since. He was appointed in October 2020 to serve an eight-year term to replace Chief Justice Gilbertson.

Justice Myren served as a circuit judge in the 5th Judicial Circuit for 17 years and has served as the presiding judge in the 5th Circuit for the past several years.

South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice gives State of Judiciary address

New South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Jensen will deliver the State of the Judiciary address in the House chamber Wednesday in Pierre.

Posted by KOTA Territory News on Wednesday, January 13, 2021

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