New report calls for sexual-harassment training in South Dakota’s courtrooms and law offices

Capitol News Bureau
KELO scales of justice court

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A new report on sexual harassment in South Dakota’s legal profession calls for changes.

The dozen recommendations come from a panel David Gilbertson set up a year ago, prior to his January retirement as chief justice for the South Dakota Supreme Court.

State Court Administrator Greg Sattizahn distributed the report to lawyers and others through the May issue of the State Bar of South Dakota newsletter.

Page 38 of May 2021 Reduced
Page 38 of May 2021 Reduced
Contributed to DocumentCloud by Karen Sherman (KELO-TV) • View document or read text

The report drew on a 2018 survey that had responses from 418 South Dakota bar members. The survey found 23% said they had experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault while working in the profession.

Only 21.8% of those who said they had been sexually harassed decided to report it. Of those, 52.9% felt their situations weren’t effectively addressed.

And only 57.1% of those who said they had been sexually assaulted reported it — and only 25% of those felt their cases were effectively addressed.

The panel’s first recommendation calls for sexual harassment training to be required for South Dakota judges, lawyers and state Unified Judicial System employees.

“The commission does not make this recommendation lightly,” the report said. “South Dakota has
traditionally not required mandatory training for members of the State Bar, and it is one of only a handful of jurisdictions or states that do not have mandatory continuing legal education training.”

Among the panelists was Andy Fergel, executive director for the State Bar. He sees the need.

“As a member of the commission appointed by the Supreme Court, I would say that the commission worked extremely hard to provide recommendations that, if implemented, will promote a culture free from sexual harassment throughout our legal system,” Fergel told KELOLAND News Tuesday.

“The publication of the report provides a platform for discussion among Bar members about this important topic and the potential for our profession to be more proactive and innovative in our approach to ending sexual harassment,” Fergel said.

Four of the recommendations cover creating and defining the role of an ombuds, or public advocate, position within the Unified Judicial System.

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