South Dakota's chief justice casts doubts on ending Bar Exam for lawyers
Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Jensen: State struggling to provide lawyers for poor defendants
South Dakota is struggling to fulfill its constitutional mandate of providing defense lawyers for those who can’t afford them, particularly in rural areas of the state, Chief Justice Steven Jensen told lawmakers Wednesday.
Jensen, the chief justice on the South Dakota Supreme Court and the state’s presiding legal officer, said counties spent $21 million last year providing criminal defense attorneys. But a surcharge paid by convicted criminals only amounted to 2-3 percent of that cost.
Jensen asked lawmakers to support an effort to review how the state provides public defenders. The judiciary is sponsoring legislation to create a summer study to evaluate possible changes. The committee would be staffed by employees of the judiciary.
Three counties — Minnehaha, Pennington and Lawrence — have full-time public defender offices, and the other 63 handle indigent defense in other ways. Some counties have a contract or contracts with private lawyers to provide defense work. Other lawyers get appointed.
NEWS: Carbon pipeline hearing could take weeks, Public Utilities Commissioner says