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Judge Rodney Steele to fill in after Sean O'Brien retires

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The judge who presided over Bill Janklow's 2003 manslaughter trial will temporarily serve in the circuit that includes Mitchell.

Retired Third Circuit Judge Rodney Steele will fill in for the retiring Sean O'Brien until a new judge is appointed. Steele was assigned to the position by Chief Justice David Gilbertson, who handles all interim judicial appointments.

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Since First Circuit Judge O'Brien, 58, recently announced he is retiring effective July 1, the Judicial Qualifications Commission has been in the process of finding a replacement.

The commission stopped accepting applications May 15. Since then, it has been doing background checks and interviewing candidates.

It will choose the most qualified applicants to recommend to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who will make the final decision.

The commission has not yet submitted a list of qualified applicants to Daugaard, said Tony Venhuizen, the governor's communication and policy adviser.

"Until they submit that list, the governor doesn't know who has applied," he said.

Once the list is received, Daugaard will personally interview candidates before deciding who to appoint, Venhuizen said.

If Daugaard receives a list of qualified candidates before the end of the summer, Venhuizen said an appointment will likely be made in the fall.

The applicant appointed will serve out O'Brien's term, which ends in 2014.

The commission is also in the process of finding replacements for Second Circuit Judge William Srstka and Third Circuit Judge David Gienapp.

In his time as governor, Daugaard has appointed four circuit judges, including First Circuit Judge Cheryle Gering in April 2011. He also appointed Justice Lori Wilbur to the state Supreme Court in August.

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