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Judicial selection in South Dakota

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in South Dakota
Seal of South Dakota.png
South Dakota Supreme Court
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   8 years
South Dakota Circuit Courts
Method:   Non-partisan elections
Term:   8 years
South Dakota Magistrate Courts
Method:   Appointment by Presiding Circuit Court Judges

Selection of state court judges in South Dakota occurs through a hybrid of appointments and elections. Though all part of the state's unified judicial system, the supreme, circuit and magistrate courts each select their judges differently.[1][2]

Supreme Court

See also: Commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection

The five justices of the South Dakota Supreme Court are appointed by the governor from a list of at least two names provided by the South Dakota Judicial Qualifications Commission. Newly appointed judges serve for at least three years, after which they must run in a yes-no retention election during a regularly scheduled general election. Subsequent terms last eight years.[1]

Selection of the chief justice

The chief justice of the court is chosen by peer vote and serves in that capacity for four years.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • a U.S. citizen;
  • a resident of South Dakota;
  • a voting resident within his or her respective district;
  • licensed to practice law in the state; and
  • under the age of 70.*[1]

*Under South Dakota code, a supreme court justice who turns seventy while in office must be "automatically retired on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of January next after the general election at which members of the Legislature are elected."[3]

Vacancies

If a judge retires before the end of his or her term, a replacement is sought by the same commission-selection and gubernatorial appointment method normally used to select judges.[1]

Circuit Courts

See also: Non-partisan election of judges

The 39 judges of the South Dakota Circuit Courts are chosen by the people in non-partisan elections. They serve for eight years and must seek re-election if they wish to serve additional terms.

For more information on these elections, visit the South Dakota judicial elections page.

Selection of the chief judge

The chief judge of each circuit court is appointed by the supreme court chief justice, serving in that capacity for as long as the chief justice sees fit.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • a U.S. citizen;
  • a resident of South Dakota;
  • a resident of his or her circuit;
  • licensed to practice law in the state; and
  • under 70 years of age.*[1]

*Circuit courts operate by the same mandatory retirement rules that apply to the supreme court; sitting circuit judges who reach the age of 70 must be "automatically retired on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of January next after the general election at which members of the Legislature are elected."[4]

Vacancies

In the event of a midterm vacancy, a replacement is appointed by the governor from a list of at least two names provided by the South Dakota Judicial Qualifications Commission. The appointee serves for the remainder of the unexpired term, after which he or she must run for election to continue serving.[1]

Magistrate Courts

The magistrate judges of the South Dakota Magistrate Courts are appointed by the presiding judges of the circuit courts. They serve terms that may vary in length, after which they must be reappointed by the presiding circuit judges.[5][2]

History

Selection methods in South Dakota have undergone several changes since the inception of the judiciary. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 1980: The constitution is amended to establish merit selection as the method for selecting supreme court justices and for filling interim vacancies on the circuit court. Before this amendment, the judicial qualifications commission and the governor's office had a working relationship, such that most appointees were already being chosen from lists submitted by the commission.
  • 1972: The constitution is amended to create a unified judicial system consisting of a supreme court, circuit court and courts of limited jurisdiction as established by the state legislature.
    • Supreme court justices are elected by district rather than by statewide ballot.
    • Term lengths of supreme and district court judges are increased to eight years.
    • The judicial qualifications commission is established to monitor complaints against judges and suggest disciplinary action.
  • 1921: The state legislature establishes non-partisan judicial elections for all judges.
  • 1889: Under South Dakota's original constitution, supreme court justices are elected by popular vote to six-year terms, circuit judges to four-year terms and county court judges to two-year terms.[6]

Selection of federal judges

United States District Court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[7]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links

References

South DakotaSouth Dakota Supreme CourtSouth Dakota Circuit CourtsSouth Dakota Magistrate CourtsUnited States District Court for the District of South DakotaUnited States bankruptcy court, District of South DakotaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Eighth CircuitSouth Dakota countiesSouth Dakota judicial newsSouth Dakota judicial electionsJudicial selection in South DakotaSouthDakotaTemplate.jpg