New chief justice asks S.D. lawmakers to pay circuit judges more and add some new positions

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Court Gavel

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Salaries for circuit judges should be increased to stay close to neighboring states, the new head of the South Dakota Supreme Court told legislators Wednesday.

Chief Justice Steven Jensen used his State of the Judiciary address to also ask for more court staff in busy Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, a pool of money for targeted raises to some Unified Judicial System staff, and a court security coordinator to carry out a statewide plan that the National Center for State Court is helping put together.

He said a circuit judge is paid about $133,000 per year. “The target is around that $150,000 figure,” he told KELOLAND News after the speech.

Jensen said there were big shoes to fill in following David Gilbertson, who served 20 years as chief justice. Gilbertson last week swore in new justice Scott Myren as a final act on the court.

Gilbertson’s name was stenciled onto a wall of the Supreme Court Law Library in the Capitol, joining distinguished justices from South Dakota’s early days as a territory and new state more than a century ago, Jensen told lawmakers.

Jensen said there will be a public ceremony next year to honor Gilbertson with a portrait that will hang in the law library. Gilbertson led the restoration effort.

“Of the 2,933 written opinions issued during his time on the court, Chief Justice Gilbertson authored nearly 700 of those opinions. His concise, thoughtful, and common-sense opinions will continue to impact the jurisprudence in this state for years to come,” Jensen told lawmakers.

He said Gilbertson accomplished much during his 25 years on the Supreme Court after being a circuit judge. As chief justice, Gilbertson established 19 problem-solving courts, started the rural attorney recruitment program, oversaw criminal justice reform and moved South Dakota courts from paper filing to an electronic system.

One of Gilbertson’s most significant contributions was the goodwill fostered within the courts and among the public, according to his successor. “During his tenure, Chief Justice Gilbertson was a model of humility, dignity, and service,” Jensen said.

Page 1 of 2021 State of the Judiciary Message - 1.10.21
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