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January 30, 2013 06:00 PM

New SF Judge Helps Maintain Diversity

Sioux Falls, SD

More women have been appointed as South Dakota judges in the last decade and the most recent female to be appointed as a judge is getting settled in during her first week on the job.

Susan Sabers knows she has a big job ahead of her as the newest judge in South Dakota's largest city.

"And to some extent this felt like the next step and it felt like a good time to make the next step," Sabers said.

After 17 years in private law practice in Sioux Falls, Sabers was sworn in Friday by her dad, retired Supreme Court Justice Richard Sabers.

While Judge Susan Sabers is continuing the legal tradition in her family, she is also helping maintain the presence of women on the bench in South Dakota.

"I do think increasing diversity on the bench is a good thing," Sabers said.

Sabers is one of eight women who currently serve as circuit court judges in the state. It's still a fraction of the more than 30 men who sit on the bench in South Dakota circuits, but she's one of three women who have just been appointed by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard in the last few years.

Sabers believes the make up of South Dakota judges should reflect the make up of the state.

"I think when I look out on the courtroom and it's filled with 50 criminal defendants or when I look at a courtroom and it's filled with a man and wife who are arguing over a divorce, I think it helps both sides to know that the people on the bench represent them," Sabers said.

Sabers doesn't think judicial diversity should be focused on only gender, but also race, age and different economic backgrounds.

And while her appointment helps ensure that women will continue to rise to the top of the legal profession, she believes South Dakota still can strive for more diversity on the bench to reflect the growing diversity in the state.

"It probably never will reflect it perfectly, and I'm not sure that you could find any profession where it would do so perfectly, but I think we can do better and be more reflective than we are now," Sabers said.

Half of Governor Daugaard's appointments for circuit judges have been women since he took office in 2011.

As far as magistrate judges, who handle misdemeanor and minor civil cases, six of the state's 13 magistrate judges are female.

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