Candidate Profile
Steven Jensen

Non-Partisan , South Dakota

Biography

Name
Steven Jensen
Party
Non-Partisan
Race
4th Supreme Court District
Incumbent
Yes
Links

Panel Rating

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Other Information

Judge Voter Guide gives Chief Justice Jensen a rating of 6 out of 10.

Governor Mike Rounds appointed Steven Jensen to the First Judicial Circuit in 2003. Rounds has a 100% vote rating from National Right to Life and a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign.

Governor Dennis Daugaard appointed Jensen to the South Dakota Supreme Court in 2017. Governor Daugaard has signed laws banning abortion beyond 19 weeks and authorizing taxpayer-funded agencies to deny services to members of the LGBTQ community.

When Governor Daugaard appointed Justice Jensen, he said, “Judge Jensen is a leader in our state’s legal community and, with 14 years on the bench, he is widely respected…As the presiding judge of his circuit, Judge Jensen has led implementation of new approaches such as drug and DUI courts and HOPE 24/7 probation programs. He has been called upon many times to contribute on important state issues, such as the reform of the juvenile justice system and the implementation of new technology in the court system. He will be an excellent justice.” Justice Jensen’s friend Judge Daryl Hecht said, “Today, the state of South Dakota receives what I would call the real deal…Steve has all it takes to be an outstanding judge.”

Justice Jensen clerked for former South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Richard Sabers, whom Republican Governor Bill Janklow appointed in 1986.

In 2020, Justice Jensen’s fellow justices chose him to be the chief justice. Justice Jensen said, “I am grateful to Chief Justice David Gilbertson, who leaves the court system in a strong position. I can only hope to carry on his legacy of innovation and dedication to a strong and independent judiciary that provides invaluable services to our citizens.”

Highlights from a Bethel University article:
  • “Jensen interned for Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office. Grassley’s legislative director mentored Jensen and told him about the positive things lawyers can accomplish.”
  • “Jensen admits serving as a judge requires a different perspective than being a lawyer. While lawyers advocate for their clients, a judge remains impartial and doesn’t reach a conclusion until he or she has heard everything in a case. That fits Jensen’s personality. His wife, Sue, once told him that sometimes his willingness to look at all sides and consider all positions drove her crazy—but she admitted it showed why he was such a good judge.”
  • “At Bethel, Jensen strove to deepen his faith …Jensen’s faith remains an important part of his life…One verse stands out to Jensen: ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’”


Justice Jensen joined a unanimous South Dakota Supreme Court in Fodness v. City of Sioux Falls (2020): “Emily Fodness suffered extensive injuries when her apartment collapsed after a contractor demolished certain portions of a load-bearing wall. Emily and her parents brought a negligence action against the City of Sioux Falls (the City) for issuing a building permit for the project. The City moved to dismiss, arguing that the public duty rule barred the suit and that the Fodnesses failed to plead sufficient facts to establish that the City owed them a special duty, which would bring them within an exception to the rule. The circuit court granted the City’s motion to dismiss and denied the Fodnesses’ motion to amend their complaint. The Fodnesses appeal. We affirm."

Questionnaire

Please note: Responses are entered electronically by the candidate and are listed verbatim.

Religious Liberty

Religious liberty is at risk in the United States and deserves the highest level of protection in the law.

(Did not answer)

The Ten Commandments should not be displayed in public school buildings or court houses.

(Did not answer)

What does "separation of church and state" mean to you?

(Did not answer)


Values

Judeo-Christian values established a framework of morality which is necessary for our system of limited government.

(Did not answer)

George Washington's comment that “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society” is still true today.

(Did not answer)

Briefly describe your spiritual beliefs and values.

(Did not answer)

iVoterGuide Note:  Steven Jensen said the following about his college experience at Bethel University, a Christian college: "Just the combination of growing academically and growing spiritually—I think that really set me up for life." Jensen's former colleague Stewart Huff said the following about him: "Having worked with Steve for 15 years, I know first-hand his...sense of Christian attitude."  Source  Source

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County, which justice’s opinion most closely aligns with your opinion of whether the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be extended to the LGBTQ community?

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What types of pro bono work have you done?

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Qualifications

I voted in these primaries and general elections:

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When you consider your views on a wide range of issues from economic and social matters to foreign policy and immigration, which of the following best describes you overall?

(Did not answer)

Please provide publicly available information validating your answer to the previous question.

(Did not answer)

What education or experience qualifies you to hold the office for which you seek election?

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In what areas of law have you practiced?

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Have you ever been convicted of a felony or been penalized for sexual misconduct? If so, please explain.

(Did not answer)

Why should the voters choose you?

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Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

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Judicial Philosophy

The U.S. Constitution and my state constitution should be interpreted as living documents, rather than using a strict constructionist or originalist approach in judicial decisions.

(Did not answer)

There are times when American judges should alter U.S. case law in order to comply with foreign case law.

(Did not answer)

Which current U.S. Supreme Court justice best reflects your judicial philosophy?

(Did not answer)

What is the proper use of legislative history in interpreting statutory law?

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What possibilities should a judge exhaust before departing from precedent?

(Did not answer)

How should a judge determine which rights are protected by the Constitution even though they are not specifically mentioned?

(Did not answer)


Background

Education
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Work & Military
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Affiliations
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Offices
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