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Second Circuit Could Add Another Judge For Drug Cases

The growing number of drug cases in Sioux Falls could bring another judge to the bench.  South Dakota State Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson plans to ask the legislature to add another judge to the Second Judicial Circuit, which serves both Minnehaha and Lincoln counties.

On Friday, judges from across South Dakota meeting in Sioux Falls, heard from KELOLAND's own Angela Kennecke about the devastating effects of addiction.

Angela shared with the judges how the synthetic opiate fentanyl claimed the life of her 21-year-old daughter Emily earlier this year.

"To me, it's a monster that came in and took a hold of my family as it does so many families and it just leaves carnage behind," Angela said.

An impromptu poll conducted by Angela shows how addiction impacts every life.

"How many of you have a family member, a friend, a colleague who has suffered from addiction?  I would venture to say 99 percent of us," Angela said.

Addiction affects judges both personally and professionally.  Drugs are often a factor in not only the criminal cases they hear, but civil cases as well, involving divorce and child custody hearings.

"It's pervasive in a lot of areas of the law the judges see," Chief Justice David Gilbertson said.

Chief Justice Gilberston credits drug courts which are now available in 15 South Dakota communities with helping defendants turn away from a life of drugs.

"80 percent of those people graduate and do not re-offend.  The people that go to the pen, you can expect over half of them will re-offend," Gilbertson said.

South Dakota judges can expect their caseloads to keep growing as opioids more and more become the drug of choice among addicts.

Gilbertson says Angela's presentation helped personalize the problem of addiction that judges don't always see from their side of the bench.

Emily's Hope is a non-profit to help offset the cost of addiction treatment.   If you'd like to help Emily's Hope, click here

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