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Task force questions South Dakota legal services


The Indigent Legal Services Task Force is narrowing in on how to potentially improve services in South Dakota.

From juvenile offenders to public defense, the committee continued their work in a meeting Tuesday.

The task force's summer-long listening sessions have taken the group to every corner of the state as they look to improve the South Dakota legal system. One of the main goals is to identify issues within the juvenile system and come up with solutions.

Greg Sattizahn, the state court administrator, had questions for task force members as they get down to brass tacks.

“Think about that - what does that look like, will there be state involvement, how will this process work," Sattizahn asked. "There’s, I think, some opportunities to think about what could be changed.”

Questions like how to support resource-strapped county governments with their legal proceedings. One board member, Pennington County public defender Eric Whitcher, said the state could play a role.

“To have some state dollars that maybe, say, will reimburse counties 30 percent of their costs, could be a mechanism for getting the counties some relief," Whitcher said. "I know it’s taking state dollars and applying them, but the counties are suffering right now.”

Fellow board member Sen. Jim Mehlhaff said they’re keeping an eye on some of their colleagues’ decisions this summer.

“This is the area where the work of the county funding summer study will probably have an impact on what we recommend and put in the final of this section," Mehlhaff said. "So, the summer study will wrap up before this task force does, so I think this may be kind of a wait-and-see recommendation.”

No actions were taken on the proposed recommendations in this week’s meeting.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture