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Second circuit court requests help amid growing workload

Minnehaha County Courthouse Sioux Falls, SD
Minnehaha County Courthouse Sioux Falls, SD

Minnehaha county commissioners discussed the county’s judicial system in their latest meeting Tuesday.

Judge Robin Houwman is the second judicial circuit presiding judge. She said her circuit court is overwhelmed.

“The average number of cases that a judge in South Dakota hears is 2,900. In the second circuit our average is 3,900. So, we do have a substantial case load,” said Houwman.

The second circuit court, which oversees Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, has 12 circuit court judges and four magistrate judges.

Houwman said a new magistrate position was approved by the legislators this year and she hopes to have them started on cases in early July.

The second circuit court is also requesting money to digitally archive old records.

Karl Thoennes is a circuit court administrator for Minnehaha County. He said the conversation of better record keeping needs to start now due to the cost associated.

Thoennes said Minnehaha County is sitting on roughly 6,600 boxes of physical records.

"Sixty-six-hundred standard records boxes times $312 to scan all the paper in those boxes works out to somewhere around $2 million dollars,” Thoennes said.

The second circuit court switched to a digital record keeping system in 2013 but records prior to the digital system still need to be manually uploaded.

Houwman said for the next legislative session the second circuit court will most likely be requesting funding for a new circuit court judge and additional full-time staff.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.