South Dakota’s Circuit Courts are the general jurisdiction trial courts for the state. The state is divided into seven judicial districts with Circuit Courts in each one. These courts have original jurisdiction in all criminal and civil matters. The types of cases seen in Circuit Courts are civil actions of more than $10,000, exclusive domestic relations cases, all felonies, exclusive juvenile cases, civil and miscellaneous appeals. These courts use both jury and bench trials. Circuit Courts process appeals from the Magistrate Courts also. South Dakota also has special problem-solving courts to help veterans and people with drug and alcohol addictions that relate to criminal offenses.
South Dakota has forty-one Circuit Court judges. South Dakota Circuit Court judges are elected by voters in their circuit in non-political elections. They serve eight-year terms. Sometimes they are appointed by the Governor directly instead of being elected. The Supreme Court Chief Justice selects one judge per circuit to become the Presiding Circuit Judge. In this role, the Presiding Judge supervises all court operations within the area and assumes administrative tasks as well.
South Dakota’s Judicial Branch website has extensive resources to help self-represented litigants, patrons of the court system, attorneys, court staff, and the general public. The site includes forms for all types of cases and courts, an e-filing option, and legal help and connections to lawyers, guides and video tutorials. It also offers quick links for common types of cases such as small claims, divorce, adoptions, and help for veterans and habitual offenders with drug and alcohol addiction. South Dakota accepts online payments for court fees, fines, and other legal charges.
For the last year tallied, South Dakota saw a total of 70,725 civil case filings and 150,187 criminal filings. Most civil cases were for small claims and domestic relations cases.