Q: How does your state select high court/supreme court judges? South Dakota has uncontested retention elections after initial appointment.
A: The judge is either voted to stay in office or voted out.
Q: How does your state select intermediate appellate court judges?
A: South Dakota does not have an intermediate appellate court.
Q: How does your state select trial court judges?
A: South Dakota has nonpartisan elections for all general jurisdiction trial court judges. The judges’ political party affiliation is not supposed to be a factor in the voting process.
Q: What are the benefits and drawbacks for selecting judges through popular elections?
Drawbacks: Voters casting votes without a knowledge of the election have a negative effect on the results. Also, minority groups will not have much voting power when outvoted by larger interest groups. Judges may win elections because they look and sound good, or because they have deep enough pockets to advertise more than the competitors.
Benefits: The majority of the population gets what they want. The voters cannot blame anyone but themselves for who is in office. The community feels more involved with the election process.
National Center for State Courts Information on South Dakota:
The court system for South Dakota is similar to that of many other states in that it has three tiers: courts of limited jurisdiction, courts of general jurisdiction and appellate courts. The Magistrate Court is an example of a South Dakota court of limited jurisdiction which has 7 circuits and 10 full time Magistrates (as well as 4 part time ones). The types of cases that would be heard here would include torts, contracts, real property (between 0-10,000 dollars), small claims, misdemeanors, and preliminary hearings (Bromage, 2007). An interesting fact about this Magistrate Court is that according to the NCSC, there are no jury trials at this level; cases are decided by bench trial. The next level (courts of general jurisdiction) is the South Dakota Circuit Court; which has 7 circuits and 38 Justices according the NCSC. Types of cases dealt with here would notably include criminal cases such as felonies.
The last level is the South Dakota Supreme Court (appellate court), which has 5 justices. The Supreme Court is the only court of its type in the state (there are no intermediate appellate level courts like in the federal system). Cases that heard in the Supreme Court would be only appeals since it’s not a trial court. Thus, as one could see, South Dakota’s court system is a very small one (composed of less than 100 judges in the entire state and a fairly minuscule number of circuits), nonetheless it seems to get the job done.
Recent Felony Arrest in South Dakota:
Recent Court Appeal in South Dakota:
Citation for image: Image Retrieved From the World Wide Web at http://www.cbsnews.com/ on October 25, 2009
Citation for ABA’s fact sheet on judicial selections: American Bar Association. FACT SHEET ON JUDICIAL SELECTION METHODS IN THE STATES. Retrieved from http://www.abanet.org/leadership/fact_sheet.pdf On Tue, Oct 20, 2009 at 2:45 PM
Citation for National Center for State Courts Information on South Dakota: Chantal, Bromage (2007). South Dakota (Court Structure as of Fiscal Year 2007). Retrieved from http://www.ncsconline.org/D_Research/Ct_Struct/state_inc.asp?STATE=SD on October 25, 2009