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SD Supreme Court names Jensen its next chief justice

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The South Dakota State Capitol building in Pierre. (Republic file photo)

PIERRE — Justice Steven Jensen has been named the next chief justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court, the high court said on Tuesday. He will replace longtime Chief Justice David Gilbertson in January 2021.

Jensen, 57, a resident of Union County, became a circuit judge in 2003 and was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2017 by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Jensen grew up on a farm near Wakonda. He received his undergraduate degree from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1985 and his juris doctor from the University of South Dakota School of Law in 1988.

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South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Steven Jensen. (Courtesy photo)

Jensen represents the Fourth Supreme Court District, which consists of Union, Clay, Yankton, Hutchinson, Hanson, Davison, Bon Homme, Douglas, Aurora, Charles Mix, Gregory, McCook, Turner and Lincoln counties. He was a former clerk for Justice Richard W. Sabers on the Supreme Court before entering private practice in 1989.

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“We need no reminder today that we continue to face challenges ahead, but I am truly looking forward to serving the people of South Dakota as chief justice," Jensen said in an announcement. "I am grateful to Chief Justice David Gilbertson who leaves the court system in a strong position. I can only hope to carry on his legacy of innovation and dedication to a strong and independent judiciary that provides invaluable services to our citizens.”

The chief justice position is the administrative head of the South Dakota court system which has 586 employees and an annual operating budget of $58 million. The position also works closely with the governor and state legislature on matters related to the court system. The five members of the Supreme Court select their own chief justice.

Gilbertson has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70, and will serve out his chief justice role until January, when Jensen takes over. Gilbertson has been on the court since 1995 and has served as chief justice since 2001.

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