The decision by Justice Lori Wilbur to step down from the South Dakota Supreme Court , effective in June, provides Gov. Dennis Daugaard with another opportunity to shape the court system. He appointed Wilbur in 2011. She had been a circuit judge based in Pierre since 1999 and she succeeded Justice Judith Meierhenry on the high court.
The Supreme Court’s legal position of late has been that a justice should come from the area she or he would represent. The five-justice court has five districts. The Supreme Court districts don’t geographically align with the seven circuit court districts. So there can be some unusual matching. The Judicial Qualifications Commission will accept applications for the vacancy and submit at least two names to the governor. He can choose from those names or ask for a set of new names to consider. Wilbur at one point in her judicial career served on the commission.
Justice Wilbur represents the Supreme Court’s fourth district. It includes the counties of Aurora, Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Clay, Davison, Douglas, Gregory, Hanson, Hutchinson, Lincoln, McCook, Turner, Union, and Yankton. Those counties are in three judicial circuits. Presuming the next justice will have circuit judge experience — that is the case for all five current justices — and presuming the high court’s policy is followed, the next justice presumably would come from one of the circuit judges in those 14 counties.
In 2009, Circuit Judge Mark Barnett of Pierre withdrew his application for a Supreme Court appointment to represent the second district, which is Minnehaha County and part of Lincoln County. Barnett didn’t want to move to the Sioux Falls area while his application was pending.
UPDATE: In response to the comment from Casual Observer, I offer this from the South Dakota Constitution’s article on the courts:
§ 6. Qualifications of judicial personnel. Justices of the Supreme Court, judges of the circuit courts and persons presiding over courts of limited jurisdiction must be citizens of the United States, residents of the state of South Dakota and voting residents within the district, circuit or jurisdiction from which they are elected or appointed. No Supreme Court justice shall be deemed to have lost his voting residence in a district by reason of his removal to the seat of government in the discharge of his official duties. Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of circuit courts must be licensed to practice law in the state of South Dakota.