Chief Justice Gilbertson looks back on career

Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 6:16 PM CST
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Today was the last State of the Judiciary for Chief Justice David Gilbertson.

After serving for 19 years as Chief Justice, 2020 will be his final year in that role.

For Gilbertson, his job has never been about filling the prisons, but instead, keeping the peace.

"We learned quite awhile ago that you can't do that by just simply locking people up," Gilbertson said. "They're going to get released at some point, and if they are not treated you're releasing an untreated drug addict, and at some point they are going to keep going back to being an addict."

Gilbertson was appointed to the South Dakota Supreme Court in 1995 and was elected by his peers as Chief Justice in 2001.

Since Gilbertson took the position, he has paved the way on many important issues facing South Dakota.

"It evolved, as the situation changed, as society changed, we had to become more proactive and come up with programs that worked to meet the problem," Gilbertson said.

He proposed the state's program to bring more attorney's to rural areas, and has helped recognize the importance of addressing mental health.

"Unfortunately, a significant number of people who into our criminal justice system are there because they have a mental health problem," Gilbertson said.

Throughout the past 20 years, Gilbertson says he is most proud of the lives the courts have been able to save.

"Because of our drug and alcohol courts there are people walking around today that are alive that probably would've died of these drug addictions if we had not been able to get them into our programs," Gilbertson said. "Our programs, the people that graduate from them, 80% of them do not re-offend."

As the longest tenured Chief Justice in the state;s history, Gov. Kristi Noem personally thanked Gilbertson in here State of the State Address, Tuesday.

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