Local Weather Alerts
There are currently no active weather alerts.

SD Chief Justices Uses “State Of The Judiciary Address” To Support Bar Exam

      South Dakota Chief Justice Steven Jensen gave the annual State of the Judiciary Address to the Legislature on Wednesday and spent most of his speech opposing a proposed bill freeing law school graduates from having to take the bar exam.

      Representative Mary Fitzgerald of St Onge was unsuccessful last year in passing a bill giving “diploma privilege” to University of South Dakota School of Law graduates and allowing them to begin practicing without passing the bar exam.

       Fitzgerald is offering a new version of the bill this session, replacing the bar exam requirement with 1,000 hours of apprenticeship under an active lawyer. She says it will help ease a shortage of attorneys in South Dakota, especially in rural areas. 

      Fitzgerald says “less lawyers to hire has increased the costs of hiring a lawyer,” leaving South Dakota residents to suffer including people on fixed incomes, the elderly, and single parents. 

      She also says it will help “the kids that went to law school and racked up a fortune in debt” and don’t pass the bar, such as her own daughter – a USDA law school graduate who has failed the exam numerous times.

      Chief Justice Jensen defended the bar exam requirement, telling the lawmakers “the process to assess competence must be rigorous (because) lawyers occupy unique positions of trust and responsibility. 

     Jensen said “clients place their confidence in lawyers to represent them in questions concerning their property, their liberty and, in the most serious cases, their very lives.”

     Jensen formed a court study group last year to study the lawyer shortage and admissions process. He says it will continue to meet throughout this year..

Leave a Comment