South Dakota Supreme Court
|South Dakota Supreme Court|
|Method:||Comm. select., Gov. appt.|
The South Dakota Supreme Court is the highest court in the state of South Dakota. The main job of the court is to listen to appeals from the decisions rendered by lower courts in the state. The court also has authority over some original matters, and it can be called on to advise the state's governor regarding executive powers.
The South Dakota Supreme Court is also responsible for administering the South Dakota Unified Judicial System. This system was created in 1975 through an amendment to the South Dakota Constitution. The court is responsible for developing a budget for the entire state court system and for supervising the work of the state's circuit (trial) courts. The court also makes rules covering practices and procedures of the state's court system, how the courts are administered, the terms of court, bar admissions and attorney discipline questions.
JusticesThe current justices of the court are:
|Chief justice David Gilbertson||1995-2022||Gov. Bill Janklow|
|Justice Steven Zinter||2002-2022||Gov. Bill Janklow|
|Justice Glen A. Severson||2009-2020||Gov. Mike Rounds|
|Justice Lori Wilbur||2011-2022||Gov. Dennis Daugaard|
|Justice Janine M. Kern||2015-2018||Gov. Dennis Daugaard|
The Justices select their own Chief Justice. Chief justices are elected to four-year renewable terms.
The Supreme Court of South Dakota is composed of a Chief Justice and four Associate Justices appointed by the Governor and selected from five different appointment districts. Justices face a nonpolitical retention election three years after appointment and every eight years after that. The Supreme Court of South Dakota serves as the final appellate court in the state, reviewing the decisions of state circuit courts.
To serve on the state's high court, a judge must be:
- A U.S. citizen
- A resident of South Dakota
- A voting resident within the judicial district which he or she will represent.
- Licensed to practice law in South Dakota.
- There is a mandatory retirement age of 70.
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of South Dakota was given a Campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, South Dakota received a score of 1.05. Based on the justices selected, South Dakota was the most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.
Removal of justices
| • South Dakota Supreme Court upholds $10 billion oil refinery permit||Click for summary→|
|On January 24, the South Dakota Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion upholding the approval of an air quality permit that would enable the Hyperion Energy Center, a company based in Dallas, to begin construction on a $10 billion oil refinery. The permit was initially issued in August of 2009, and was upheld by a lower court in February 2012.
A group of plaintiffs including the Sierra Club, Citizens Opposed to Oil Pollution, and Save Union County sued the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment, claiming that the board erred in approving the air quality permit because the study it conducted "did not include a full-scale environmental impact statement." However, according to Justice Steven Zinter's ruling, "the record indicates that other [environmental impact statement] concerns will be addressed in other regulatory proceedings that are necessary to construct and operate the proposed facility." In addition, plaintiffs argued that the permit was invalid because Hyperion did not begin construction by the original February 2011 deadline. Building was delayed due to the recession, which caused financing problems for the company. On this point, the Supreme Court ruled that the state was not in error when it extended Hyperion's construction deadline.
Hyperion's victory in court is only one step on the road to constructing the oil refinery. Under the air permit's conditions, Hyperion is required to start construction by March 2013. However, last September, the company "quit making option payments to owners of more than 3,000 acres of farmland," which means that it no longer has control of the land where the refinery is supposed to be built. Hyperion's vice president has stated that the company will likely ask the board to extend the March deadline.If completed, Hyperion's refinery would process 400,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands crude oil every day, producing low-sulfur gasoline, diesel, liquid petroleum gas, and jet fuel.
In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. South Dakota earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.
History of the court
A Territorial Supreme Court that covered the area that is now South Dakota and North Dakota was created in 1861. President Abraham Lincoln appointed its first three justices: Philemon Bliss, Joseph L. Williams, and George P. Willisfon. The court did not meet to dispose of any cases until 1867.
In 1889, the Dakota Territory was split into North Dakota and South Dakota. Its Territorial Supreme Court was dissolved by President Benjamin Harrison. An election was held in South Dakota to select the first state supreme court. Justices Dighton Corson, Alphonso Kellam, and John Bennett were elected and sworn-in October 15, 1889. Since there was yet no capitol building for the new state, the oath-taking ceremony took place on the Hughes County courthouse veranda. The court used the county courthouse until 1891 when they began holding court in the state legislature's senate chambers. The South Dakota Supreme Court did not receive their own chambers until the autumn of 1905.
Between 1861 and 1889, when South Dakota become a state, thirty presidential appointees served as judges of the Territorial Supreme Court. Their decisions, cited as "Dakota Reports," cover six volumes.
- News: Prairie dogs wreak havoc in South Dakota, ranchers seek state compensation, January 31, 2012
- News: Lori Wilbur appointed to South Dakota Supreme Court, August 17, 2011
- News: South Dakota man's death penalty case moves closer to execution, August 15, 2011
- News: Governor Daugaard to interview four finalists for Supreme Court vacancy, July 31, 2011
- News: South Dakota man's death penalty case to be heard by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 28, 2011
- South Dakota Unified Judicial System Official Site
- STATE OF THE JUDICIARY MESSAGE, JANUARY 2013
- Institute for Legal Reform
- Argus Leader, "Attorney general argues for limits on death penalty appeals," Jan. 22, 2012
- South Dakota Judicial application
- Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
- South Dakota Unified Judicial System, "Annual Reports"
- WSBtv.com, "SD Supreme Court upholds refinery permit," January 24, 2013 (dead link)
- Omaha.com, "South Dakota Supreme Court upholds permit for $10 billion oil refinery," January 25, 2013
- Sioux City Journal, "SD Supreme Court upholds Hyperion refinery permit," January 24, 2013
- Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
- South Dakota Supreme Court History
|Former||Richard Sabers • John Konenkamp • Judith Meierhenry • Roger Wollman •|