South Dakota Supreme Court

Joe Sneve, Argus Leader

The South Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday, April 28, on the constitutionality of Amendment A. In the 2020 election, almost 55 percent of the state's voters approved the amendment that legalizes cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. The law officers who brought this suit say the new amendment violates older amendments, especially one added in 2018. Victoria Wicks has this report for SDPB.

South Dakota Unified Judicial System

Custer County allows open-carry firearms in its courthouse. Because of that ordinance, judges of the Seventh Circuit will now conduct Custer County hearings in Rapid City, either in person or through audio visual communication.

Presiding Judge Craig Pfeifle proposed that response in early December, after the county ordinance went into effect.

Pfeifle says the Custer County Courthouse is "currently unsuitable and insufficient" because of safety concerns. He says Custer County trials, even though held in Rapid City, will draw from a Custer County jury pool.


In The Moment … January 14th, 2021 Show 972 Hour 2

Steven Jensen is the new Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court. Yesterday he addressed a joint session of the state legislature for the first time. Guest: Chief Justice Jenson. 


Chris Laughery

In The Moment ... January 16, 2020 Show 735 Hour 2

South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson delivered his 19th and final State of the Judiciary address Wednesday. Gilbertson joins to further elaborate where he believes South Dakota has improved, and where there is still work to be done.

Politics and public policy reporting is supported by The Center for Western Studies at Augustana University

News: Dec 7 - 13

Dec 13, 2019

In this week’s South Dakota news, a civil trial at the Aberdeen federal courthouse challenges the implementation of HB 1094, and reports from counties in Minnesota and North Dakota show communities divided over refugee resettlement. Is the quarrel soon coming to South Dakota?

News: Nov 16 - 22

Nov 22, 2019

This week’s South Dakota news features life-saving advances in stroke treatment, the surprise resignation of a prominent conservative state lawmaker, and an infusion of millions of dollars into South Dakota communities. You can find all our “In the Moment” interviews and features by subscribing to the “In the Moment: Segments” podcast. We’ve rounded up some of the top stories for you in this week’s “In the Moment: News” podcast.

Chris McLaughery, SDPB

The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled in January 2018 that an oversized house built in a Sioux Falls historic district must be torn down.

Now the high court has been asked to determine if the state-law definition of "damages," for insurance purposes, includes the cost of construction and demolition of that new house.

The question comes out of a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court, where the homeowners are suing Liberty Mutual.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this ongoing story.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

The South Dakota Supreme Court ended its term with a hearing on Mid-Central Educational Cooperative’s handling of federal GEAR UP funds. The lawsuit in question followed investigations into Mid-Central business manager Scott Westerhuis, who murdered his family and set his house on fire before killing himself in 2015.

The case considers if two former GEAR UP students can be considered third-party beneficiaries of the contracts between the South Dakota Department of Education, Mid-Central Educational Cooperative, and the American Indian Institute for Innovation. 

SD Department of Corrections

One year ago Chance Harruff was convicted of strangling his former girlfriend in her home at Dallas, S.D.

Prior to her murder, she had told friends and relatives details about the abusive relationship. Several of them were called to testify at trial.

The defendant appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court, saying the jury was prejudiced against him after hearing too many witnesses testify to the same details.

The high court heard the case on Monday, Sept. 30.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.

SD Department of Corrections

A property owner in Hamlin County says the sheriff there destroyed his trailer house in an unreasonable search.

The sheriff says he has immunity for damages caused when he's just doing his job.

A lower court refused to issue a summary judgment, saying it's a question for a jury, and the sheriff appeals that decision to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will issue a decision at a later date.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports on this case.

State Of The Judiciary

Jan 10, 2019
Steve Munsen

In The Moment ... January 10, 2019 Show 492 Hour 1

Chief Justice David Gilbertson joins In The Moment host Lori Walsh to discuss the state of the South Dakota judicial system and working with Governor Kristi Noem and a new administration in Pierre.

In The Moment ... October 31, 2018 Show 451 Hour 1

The two went to law school together at the University of South Dakota and became friends. Harry Christianson takes time now to remember Justice Steven Zinter who suddenly past away this week.

Adria Botella

In The Moment ... October 1. 2018 Show 433 Hour 2

The South Dakota Supreme Court is holding its October session on the campus of the University of Sioux Falls through Wednesday.  The Court will hear three oral arguments at the Meredith Auditorium in the Jeschke Fine Arts Center.

Mike Thompson, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Sioux Falls, joined the program with details on the proceedings.

Adria Botella

In The Moment ... July 19, 2018 Show 382 Hour 1

Mark Salter has been sworn in as the 51st Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court and will serve the Second Supreme Court District , where Justice Glen Severson served before his retirement.

A Huron native, Justice Salter has a long record of service, including as the presiding judge for Veterans Treatment Court and as an adjunct professor at the University of South Dakota School of Law.

He joined In The Moment to discuss the future plans for his new position. 

Daugaard To Fill Supreme Court Vacancy In Summer

Jan 19, 2018

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard says he will appoint a justice to a looming vacant seat on the Supreme Court.

Justice Glen Severson will retire his seat in the summer. Daugaard is term limited this year.

Unlike the US Supreme Court, the state’s highest court must take every case appealed to it. Daugaard says the volume of cases grow every year. He says there’s a workload that must be handled.

In The Moment ... August 28, 2017 Show 165 Hour 1

Students at Harrisburg High School are soon going to be able to participate in an early college program which would allow them to earn college credit at no cost to them while still in high school. Joining us today to expand on this program is Superintendent of the Harrisburg school District Jim Holbeck. Welcome to In The Moment.

Lori Walsh

In The Moment ... May 26, 2017 Show 102 Hour 1

You can hear live music on In the Moment every Friday. Today we welcome Bridget Boen. She grew up in Nebraska and has been living the nomadic musical life for a while. For now, she's settled in Sioux Falls, and we're glad she did. Find her at

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

An issue that infiltrated the 1990's is catching the eye of South Dakotans who fish.

The South Dakota Supreme Court will rule on the second of two lawsuits pertaining to public access to bodies of water for recreation. It’s an issue that took center stage in Day County where several bodies of water formed more than two decades ago following heavy snow and spring rains.

Since then sportsmen have wanted access to the water that pools on private property, but landowners want their privacy. State law holds water in trust for “beneficial use” for the public.

Steve Munsen

In The Moment ... May 8, 2017 Show 088 Hour 1

We're joined by members of the JAS Quintet. Today they bring you a taste of the fourth offering in the Jazz Curators series. "Lady Day" explores the life and music of jazz legend Billie Holiday. Shows are this weekend, May 12 and 13 at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls.

In The Moment ... April 12, 2017 Show 070 Hour 2

We begin the hour with Dakota Political Junkies Jon Hunter and Noel Hamiel. Today we talk ethanol, land-owner rights, and how not to sacrifice journalistic standards for the sake of speed. Jon Hunter is publisher of the Madison Daily Leader. Noel Hamiel is former publisher of the Mitchell Republic and a member of the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame.

Morrisa Maltz

In The Moment ... March 21, 2017 Show 054 Hour 2

Prior to the 92nd session of the South Dakota legislature, we welcomed South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson for a preview. Now, as the session comes to a close, we welcome him back to the program for a recap. We talk about HB1183 and mental health legislation set to change the way citizens with mental health issues interact with the criminal justice system.

Lori Walsh

In The Moment ... March 17, 2017 Show 052 Hour 1

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

The head of South Dakota’s Supreme Court says the probation system in the state is stretched thin.

With rising rates of drug related offenses, Chief Justice took time to reiterate the savings of the state’s probation program as opposed to incarceration.

South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson calls the rising rates of addiction in South Dakota a new wave of evil.

He says the drug problem in South Dakota has exploded.

Gilbertson says drug crimes accounted for 41 percent of prison admissions in the last fiscal year.

Two of South Dakota’s five Supreme Court justices say issues of justice for minorities in the state are more about poverty than race. Those comments came during a Sioux Falls Rotary meeting on Monday, July 11.

The Sioux Falls Rotary met to discuss exactly how the state’s highest court receives and, subsequently, hears cases.

When asked about how the state administers justice toward minorities in South Dakota, Supreme Court justice Glen Severson says he thinks the state’s judicial system is fair, but he says that’s not the full story.

Photo courtesy of John Murphy

A Hot Springs man convicted of third-degree rape has been denied a new trial. The South Dakota Supreme Court found that the prosecutor's conduct was "exceedingly inappropriate," but the evidence supported the jury's decision to convict. One justice, however, dissented from the majority opinion. Justice Janine Kern said the prosecutor's conduct was so improper, the conviction should be reversed.

The second-degree murder conviction of a Pierre teen has been upheld by the South Dakota Supreme Court. Justices ruled that a jury instruction given by the trial judge was legal. Two justices agreed with the majority opinion, but with reservations, saying that just because something is legal doesn't mean it should be done.

On March 22, the South Dakota Supreme Court heard the appeal of a man convicted of kidnapping. On Thursday, April 7, the court issued a quick turnaround opinion, reversing the conviction.

Black Hills State University

The Judicial Voices Project captures histories of the South Dakota Supreme Court on its 125th Anniversary.  South Dakota Chief Justice David Gilbertson and Judicial Voices Project Director John Glover discussed the genesis and future of the online project as it documents the Court.

In May 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law officers need to get a warrant to draw blood from DUI suspects unless exigent circumstances do not allow.

A year later, the South Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments that the state's blood draw process was unconstitutional.

In the gap between those two events, Ronald Ray Fischer was arrested in Charles Mix County for running a stop sign while drunk and killing two U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees in a parking lot.

On December 18, 2012, 16-year-old Braiden McCahren of Pierre was arrested for shooting and killing a friend and threatening another friend with a shotgun. He was charged with first-degree murder, but at trial was convicted of second-degree murder. His attorney argued before the South Dakota Supreme Court that McCahren didn't have the chance to defend against the charge of which he was convicted.


The decision to allow the jury to consider second-degree murder came after both parties had rested their cases and just before parties made closing arguments.