PIERRE, S.D. -- South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Steven Zinter of Pierre has died due to complications related to surgery, according to the state’s Unified Judicial System.
“He was a giant in South Dakota’s legal community and judiciary and possessed a positive personality the likes of which I have never seen,” said Chief Justice David Gilbertson in a UJS release Tuesday, Oct. 30 “We are all better for knowing him.”
According to the UJS, Zinter was 68 years old when he died Tuesday.
Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in a tweet he has ordered flags be flown at half-staff in the state to remember Zinter, calling him “a towering figure in South Dakota law and a consummate public servant.”
After receiving his Juris Doctor from the University of South Dakota School of Law in 1972, Zinter rose through the ranks of the state’s legal and judicial systems, from Assistant Attorney General in the ‘70s, to Presiding Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit beginning in 1997. There he served until former-Gov. William Janklow appointed him to the state Supreme Court in April 2002. He was retained by voters in 2006 and 2014.
Greg Sattizahn of the UJS said Zinter will be remembered as “a very thoughtful and deliberate jurist.”
“Every case (Zinter presided over) was the most important case for the people,” Sattizahn said.
Sattizahn said Zinter died at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., due to surgical complications, the details of which remain unclear. Zinter was wheelchair-bound due to an accident in the 1970s, but Sattizahn said Zinter’s handicaps were unrelated to his surgery and complications.
He is survived by his wife Sandy, his two daughters Sarah and Kelly and four grandchildren.
To find Zinter’s successor on the bench, a Judicial Qualifications Commission will first advertise the position and accept applicants. After conducting background checks and qualifications screenings, the commission will recommend at least two individuals from the applicant pool to the governor. The governor will then take his or her pick.
In the next general election following the appointment, voters will decide whether to retain the nominee.