Former judge spent career advocating for crime victim’s rights
April 19-25th is National Crime Victims Week. A man who paved the way for many victims rights locally is former 7th Circuit Court Judge Merton Tice.
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Before retiring – Merton Tice served 36 years on the bench.
He enjoyed debating hot button topics growing up and thought a career in law would best suite him. He became a judge, following in his fathers footsteps.
Tice has served as many roles throughout his career, but his time as a 7th Circuit Court Judge really gave him the insight into human rights. He says he wanted to consider the people first, not just the crime committed. He says it’s important to look at both points of view.
Tice says, “Being a judge is not about deciding cases, but trying to understand what is the right thing to do on behalf of both the victim and the perpetrator because both of them are my responsibility as a circuit judge.”
When he began as a judge, he said victims rights were not promoted as they should be. He saw the need to help make victim’s life’s whole again so he got more involved in advocating for them.
Tice says, “I learned to listen more closely to victims and understand the nature of the victimization and not just what they suffered, but what they went through after they were part of the court process.”
It was at a national meeting of judges, he got an eye opener. He had the opportunity to listen to victims stories and how their life was impacted by crimes against them, “up to that time, I just saw victims as pieces of the puzzle, then I realized that they are people who have been injured,” says Tice.
People were falling through the cracks, there needed to be an effort for healthier communities. And Tice was on the front end of changes happening across the nation and bringing his efforts to the Black Hills community.
He was a big proponent of Reformative Justice – bringing the victims and offenders together in a mediation, a powerful movement that gives the victims their voices back to share their feelings and experiences.
Tice says this lets the community know victims voices matter, which empowers victims to speak about the crime that impacted them and the long term impact these crimes would have on their lives.
Tice was on the National Board in 1984 when the law was signed by President Ronald Reagan. Both of Tice’s children have careers in helping victims rights.
Click here for more information on the Victim’s Rights Act.