Supreme Court Justices visit BHSU

The South Dakota Supreme Court visited the Black Hills State University campus for three days this semester to give hundreds of students the opportunity to witness the court in session. From Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, the five justices of the S.D. Supreme Court heard three oral cases each day. The presentation of the cases at BHSU was to help educate students on how the court system works and gives the public an opportunity to take part in process.

“If you’ve been in our courtroom in Pierre, it’s very nice, very ornate, but it only holds 20 people. Our arguments are open to the public, and it’s pretty difficult for people to come to Pierre and hear the arguments, so instead we take the court to the people,” Chief Justice David Gilbertson said. “We try to pick cases that we think would be interesting to the students and that are educational.”

Along with Chief Justice Gilbertson, the four associate justices: Justice John Konenkamp, Justice Steven Zinter, Justice Glen Severson and Justice Lori Wilbur were also present at the campus.

Several law enforcement officers were stationed out the Jacket Legacy Room and were directing people through metal detectors as they entered the room. During the oral arguments, attorneys pleaded their case to the justices of why their side of the argument was correct.

“It is an attempt to show the public how we work as an appellate court,” Gilbertson said. “because it is quite a bit different if you sat in on our arguments than a jury trial.”

The Supreme Court of South Dakota does not work as a trial court but as an appeal court. If a person in a specific case is not satisfied with the outcome of their trial they can appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court. South Dakota is one of five states where you are guaranteed the right to appeal before the state Supreme Court.

Gilbertson was elected to be the chief justice in 2001 and this is the 3rd time that he has visited the BHSU campus. The S.D. Supreme Court has been traveling to college campuses since the 1970’s to hear out court cases. Every fall semester they travel to a different S.D. college and conduct court sessions. The S.D. Supreme court visits BHSU every six years.

Keloland Television was there to broadcast the events and proceedings, along with other BHSU faculty members to help with the set up.

“I was involved in a lot of planning and setup, and I was involved last time they were here,” said Terry Hupp, the Director of Instructional Technology services at BHSU. “We set up five mics for the five justices and helped with camera setup.”

On Oct. 1, Gilbertson held a discussion about the bill called Project Rural Practice in the Jacket Legacy Room. Approximately 50 high school students and faculty were in attendance to hear the discussion. Gilbertson explained that him and others involved started Project Rural Practice and are working to create jobs for attorneys in the rural areas of South Dakota. After the discussion, BHSU held a banquet to honor the S.D. Supreme Court justices in Club Buzz.