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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at

Chief Justice Gilbertson delivers State of Judiciary address

Chief Justice David Gilbertson gave his outlook on the state’s judicial branch Wednesday. Gilbertson addressed a variety of topics ranging from the alternative courts proposed in the South Dakota Public Safety Improvement Act, to child protective services and cameras in the court. Gilbertson noted the decreasing amount of attorneys in rural areas of the state. He says more progress still needs to be made.

“The task force has moved forward with a three point plan of how to proceed. The plan includes: one, providing resources to those law school graduates who wish to set up a law practice in a rural area; two, developing incentives, financial and otherwise, to encourage locations in rural areas; three, bring towns, counties, rural attorneys approaching retirement age, law school graduates and the law school together with a website. Right now, the process has the element of a junior high dance, with participants standing on the sidelines, leaning against the wall and looking at each other,” Gilbertson says.

Gilbertson says he doesn’t plan to return to the glory days of the 1950s and 60s where rural lawyers were abundant, but he expects to address today’s problem realistically and hopes to encourage new law school graduates to consider South Dakota’s communities in need.

Governor Dennis Daugaard has submitted a plan to reform the criminal justice system in South Dakota during his state of the state address. Gilbertson says by implementing alternative courts such as drug courts, South Dakota should be able to reduce its quickly growing prison population. He says if the prison population continues to grow at its current rate; the state won’t have general funds to spend on things important to citizens such as education. Gilbertson says just because he’s supporting alternative accountability programs doesn’t mean he’s going soft on crime.

Chief Justice Gilbertson discusses using alternative courts

“After 27 years as a judge, I am not trading my judicial gavel for a pack of get-out-of-jail-free cards. I am simply asking this legislature, which sets the public policy, to take a look at these types of substance abuse programs as an alternative in appropriate cases to more penitentiaries. While it might be safer for me to sit back in my black robe and continue to oversee the UJS (Unified Judicial System) under a “business as usual” logo. There is too much at stake for us, and for future generations, to take the easy path,” Gilbertson says.

Gilbertson says as of July 2012, 41 people have graduated from the drug program, which has an 88 percent current success rate. He says it’ll be up to the state legislature to decide the fate of the South Dakota Public Safety Improvement Act.