PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A task force assigned to develop possible improvements in providing legal services to indigent people in South Dakota plans a series of public listening sessions in the coming weeks.

The panel met Wednesday through a combination of teleconference and in-person at the Capitol.

The listening sessions are set for Sturgis, Hot Springs, Timber Lake, Pierre, Aberdeen, Sisseton, Huron, Chamberlain and Vermillion.

Dates, times and locations have yet to be arranged. The sessions are to be completed before the group’s next meeting, scheduled for June 20 in Sioux Falls during the State Bar of South Dakota annual convention.

“We really tried to pick some regional hubs,” said Neil Fulton of Vermillion, one of the task force’s co-chairs and dean of the University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law.

Lake County State’s Attorney Wendy Kloeppner asked whether the listening sessions could also be open to remote participation via technology. State Courts Administrator Greg Sattizahn said he would look into holding a statewide Zoom meeting for remote testimony.

The Legislature established the 13-member task force that South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Jensen requested. Only two lawmakers — Republican Rep. Tina Mulally and Republican Sen. Tom Pischke — voted against the final version of the measure.

The task force received a synopsis and a detailed summary from the national Sixth Amendment Center about indigent defense in eight states with population and geographic characteristics similar to South Dakota. Task force members have been asked to look at the reports and submit their individual perspectives so ideas can be discussed at the June meeting.

Members are Republican Sen. Jim Mehlhaff, Republican Rep. Will Mortenson, Brent Kempema from the South Dakota Office of Attorney General, lawyer Lori Stanford of Flandreau, lawyer Tom Cogley of Aberdeen, Circuit Judge Michael Day of Belle Fourche, Circuit Judge Christina Klinger of Pierre, Pennington County public defender Eric Whitcher, Minnehaha County public defender Traci Smith, Oglala Lakota County Commissioner Art Hopkins, Hughes County Commissioner Randy Brown, Kloeppner and Fulton.

The Legislature’s Executive Board has also assigned an interim study by lawmakers of ways that county governments can bear fewer expenses.