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Three new appointees named to public defense board

Law and justice concept - Themis statue, judge hammer and books. Courtroom.
NiseriN/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Law and justice concept - Themis statue, judge hammer and books. Courtroom.

The new statewide Indigent Defense Commission is beginning to take shape. With the state in need of reform to public defense, board members say this is just the beginning.

Three South Dakota legal minds have been named to the board seeking to reassess the public defense situation in the state.

Neil Fulton is dean of the USD Knutson School of Law and one of the three appointees named by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Jensen on Tuesday.

Susan Hanson
Neil Fulton (file)

“The goal of the commission is to work towards more effective and efficient indigent defense in South Dakota," Fulton said. "More effective to make sure all South Dakotans charged with crimes have effective council available to them, and more efficient trying to find ways to reduce the expense for counties where we can.”

Fulton said more effective public defense in the state doesn’t just mean better representation for defendants.

“Having structural defender offices generally provides greater efficiency in the court system," Fulton said. "People who do that work all day everyday are generally able to identify the crucial issues and get the focus of the case on the things that matter.”

Fulton said he hopes to represent USD’s commitment to service on the board.

“The opportunity to be on the task force, and now the commission at the chief justices request speaks a lot to me," Fulton said. "I think it speaks a lot to what the law school values as well – we view service as one of our key missions and me stepping forward to be a part of this committee is consistent with our values as a school.”

The two other appointees named by Jensen are Sixth Circuit Court Judge Bobbi Rank and Minnehaha County Public Defender Betsy Doyle.

So far, eight of the nine positions on the commission have been filled.

Gov. Kristi Noem appointed three members, including State Bar President Heather Lammers Bogard, former attorney general Larry Long and Sioux Falls attorney Dick Travis.

The legislature appointed two members, including outgoing Sen. Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown and Rep. David Kull of Brandon.

The final appointment yet to be made will come from the state Association of County Commissioners.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture