Eye on KELOLAND: New leader of the South Dakota Supreme Court


There’s a new leader of the South Dakota Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Steven Jensen took over on January 5th.

South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Jensen knew at a young age he wanted a career in law.

“I grew up on a farm. I didn’t know any lawyers, didn’t have any lawyers in the family, but it was something I was always attracted to,” South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Jensen said.

Jensen completed his undergrad in Minnesota and then attended law school at the University of South Dakota.

After graduation he worked as a law clerk for the South Dakota Supreme Court before being hired by a law firm.

In 2003, then Governor Mike Rounds appointed him as a circuit judge.

In 2017, Jensen received an appointment to the Supreme Court from then Governor Dennis Daugaard.

“Well, obviously it was a thrill. It’s one of those opportunities that you think, ‘Wow, what a fantastic opportunity it is,'” Jensen said.

Now in 2021, he has a new title: chief justice.

In his first State of the Judiciary earlier this month, Jensen asked the legislature to consider salary raises for judges.

Jensen also requested funding for additional clerk positions, particularly in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties.

“We’ve added several judges over the years. If you go back over the last probably 10-15 years there have been several judges added, but no additional clerk staff. And so the workload on the clerks, particularly in the 2nd Circuit, has really increased,” Jensen said.

Other requests included funding for targeted raises for some Unified Judicial System staff.

Chief Justice Jensen took over for the state’s longest-serving supreme court chief justice David Gilbertson.

He recently retired.

“They’re four year terms, and the fact that the court continued to elect him as chief says a lot about his ability and the belief of the court and his ability to manage the court system,” Jensen said.

Jensen says Gilbertson left a lasting mark on the court system.

Now a new chief justice picks up the baton.

Even though he has a different title now, the goal of delivering justice remains the same.

“I think that’s our job every single day. It’s something that we strive to do, and I think it’s something there’s always improvements we can continue to make, so the challenge of that and the challenge to continue to improve as a court system is something that I truly look forward to,” Jensen said.

You can read Jensen’s full State of the Judiciary address here:

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