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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 76723 Find in a Library
Title: Unified Judicial System in South Dakota - A Fifth Year Report
Journal: South Dakota Law Review  Volume:25  Dated:(Winter 1980)  Pages:1-13
Author(s): P Hall
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 13
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This report describes the first 5 years of operation of South Dakota's unified judicial system and responses to criticisms commonly made about the system.
Abstract: South Dakota's voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the revised system in November 1972. The unified system consisted of a supreme court of 5 justices and 9 circuit courts with 37 judges. The new system eliminated the district county courts, municipal courts, justices of the police, and police magistrate systems. Lay magistrates and law-trained magistrates appointed by the presiding circuit judges started their work in January 1975. The revised judicial article of the constitution also provided for a judicial qualification commission that may recommend to the supreme court the removal, retirement, or censure of a judge or justice without the cumbersome process of impeachment. In the fifth circuit, the new system appears to be operating smoothly. The time between arrest and either a guilty plea or beginning of a trial in all felony and drunk driving cases has been reduced considerably in the past 5 years. However, the new system has been criticized for costing more and using more employees than the old system. Although cost comparisons are difficult to make, there has actually been little increase in the system's cost. Although the system has also been criticized for decreasing service, especially in areas previously serviced by justices of the police and police magistrate courts, it has better qualified judges serving the public. Although the centralization of court administration has been criticized, every State now has a State court administrator whether or not it is centralized. Other sources of complaints include the computer system, which was not part of court unification; delayed decisions, which are unrelated to the new system; and the incompetence of trial judges, another problem which is unrelated to the unification and which stems from a shortage of lawyers who are both qualified and want judicial appointment. Overall, efforts to upgrade the court system should be matched by efforts to upgrade personnel and to obtain a uniformly competent, capable judiciary. Footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Court reform; Court structure; South Dakota; State court unification; Success factors
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