Judges moved to Pennington County after ordinance passes allowing guns in Custer County courthouse
CUSTER, S.D. — An ordinance in Custer County that would allow firearms inside courthouses, prompting a swift response from the head of the 7th circuit court. One that may have big effects on both Custer and Pennington County.
On Monday, the Custer County Commission adopted Ordinance 2020-18 that allowed for firearms to be carried into the Custer County Courthouse. In response, Judge Craig Pfeifle proposed an order moving all judges from Custer to Pennington County. His justification is the safety risk associated with the ordinance.
“Although the judge has been very open with us, he told us that’s what he was going to do if we ratified this,” said chairman of the commission, Jim Lintz. “And the judge is not anti-gun, he just felt that it was an unsafe procedure for us to allow carrying in the courthouse.”
According to the ordinance, legal gun owners would be allowed to carry in the courthouse, but that would not extend to the courtroom or other offices. South Dakota lawmakers passed a Constitutional Carry law in 2019, allowing legal gun owners to conceal carry firearms without a permit.
“So the commission chose to allow them to carry in the courthouse,” said Lintz. “They did say that if the judge did disallow us to have hearings in Custer county, that they would look at that now differently, because it’s going to be a big cost to the county.”
The proposed order would require judges to oversee cases virtually, or in Rapid City. Lintz says the decision will have a great affect on the public that needs to go to court.
“We’re going to have to provide transportation to Pennington County, or they’re going to. We’re going to have to probably shut down our state’s attorney office that day because they will all be in Pennington County. The sheriff’s office is going to be required for some security, so it’s going to be an extra load on our sheriff, it’s going to be an extra load on our state’s attorney.”
Lintz and the commission have spoken with the state attorney and the sheriff, but do not have an estimation of expenses.