Message from your President
The public opinion jury is in. Instigators of domestic abuse should be banned from their careers for life and their bosses should resign if they aren’t summarily dismissed from their job. If that occurs, the evils portrayed by the horrific allegations of abuse currently dominating the news of the NFL will be cured. Right?
All of the media blitz on these issues bring two things to mind. First, as Lee Corso says each Saturday on College Gameday on ESPN, “Not so fast my friend.” In our world of instant gratification, instant results and constant bombardment of information from media, social media etc., something seems to be lost. Is the concept of due process and learning both sides of a story so foreign to our society that we no longer need our legal system to do its job? A job, I might add, that it has been doing for hundreds of years. 800 of them to be precise, as we continue to embrace the ideals of a system governed by the rule of law as proclaimed in the Magna Carta.
Don’t get me wrong, the issues of domestic abuse and child “discipline” need to be addressed. Whether it be the Minnesota Vikings, the NFL or any other organization, there is something to be said for letting the legal system deal with these matters before jumping to conclusions based on what is portrayed on TMZ, Twitter or Facebook. Yet, the media, and society in general, have made up their minds and the court of public opinion is speaking loudly.
Thankfully, our legal system avoids these shortcomings. Due process and double jeopardy mean something and we must make sure they continue to do so. Imagine living in a society where these concepts are ignored or worse yet, non-existent. The court system will get it right the first time. We almost always do and it is our profession’s job to make sure that doesn’t change.
Secondly, we need to recognize that domestic violence is not just a problem in the NFL or professional sports. Domestic abuse is a societal problem in our country that needs to be addressed. UJS Statistics show that over the last 5 fiscal years, there have been, on average, nearly 16,000 filings annually in our Circuit Courts in the domestic relations category. This includes all domestic relations cases from protection orders to child custody modifications, but these filings have now started to exceed all civil filings in our Circuit Courts. Undoubtedly, a large share of these cases have a component of domestic violence or abuse even though many may not bring the issue to the court’s attention.
Rather than dwell on the negative as we like to do, perhaps this is an opportunity to educate and correct some of the problems in our society. What can we do? We can start by helping those victims who need assistance from the Court system to get away from their abusive partners. For years, the State Bar of South Dakota has requested volunteers to take a pro bono case through our Access to Justice (A2J) program. Statistics reveal that each year, A2J has a waiting list for people who need an attorney. The assistance is almost always needed for domestic cases. Yet, many of our members flatly refuse to get involved in this type of case. For the people on the waiting list, time is precious. They deserve better.
The reason for not taking a domestic case is almost always I don’t know how. I am confident that our highly educated and intelligent members can do more. There are resources to assist. There are colleagues who can walk you through the process if in doubt. “I don’t do those types of cases” should not be the response. “Let me help” should be.
Our legal services organizations need your assistance. A2J, East River and Dakota Plains can’t do this alone. It takes a collective effort on our part as learned professionals to step up to the plate and fulfill our duty to society and re-think how we go about meeting our pro bono service obligations. When called upon respond. Better yet, call A2J and tell Cheryl Hanna you will be a part of the solution. Cheryl has a great need for attorneys willing to take domestic cases. The problem is only going to be magnified now and the need to assist will only get greater. It’s never too late to learn and it’s clearly never too early to help.
With campaigns heating up, remember to do your part to support our members who have accepted the challenge and calling to serve in our legislature. Regardless of party affiliation, we need to support our lawyer candidates. They are Art Rusch, Lee Schoenbeck, Mark Mickelson, Mike Stevens, Roger Hunt, Lance Russell, Timothy Johns, Brian Gosch, Steven Haugaard, and Chris McClure. Good luck and thanks to each of you for your willingness to serve. More need to follow suit in 2016.
In addition, we need to thank our judicial candidates who have kept their campaigns professional and civil. Congratulations on keeping outside influences away and focusing on your respective qualifications, rather than your political or social ideals. This lesson could be carried to many other jurisdictions where judges are selected based on many factors regardless of qualifications. Good luck to all candidates in our judicial elections.
HALL OF FAME
On September 13, 2014 a first occurred for the SD Hall of Fame. None other than our own Fred Cozad was inducted. His claim was nothing more than being a country lawyer in Martin and a community and statewide leader through various positions held. Fred is the first lawyer inducted based solely upon his impact as a rural practitioner. Since Fred would not “brag” about himself, I have asked his mentee Pat Goetzinger to make a few remarks about Fred’s career and impact as a great citizen of South Dakota.
“65 years as an active member of the Bar, 62 years as a Veteran Service Officer, 50 years as City Attorney, 18 years on the Board of Charities and Corrections, 6 years on the Board of Regents, a charter member of The Friends of SDPB and countless hours of pro bono service distinguish Fred and Luella as the iron man and woman of our greatest generation. Quite support through scholarships, community funds, the arts and brining public broadcasting to rural areas in South Dakota secure their permanent legacy as the philanthropic country lawyer. Fred and Luella’s guiding principle, to give back to their profession, community and state, is epitomized by Fred’s simple admonition, “Live and Help Live.””
Congratulations Fred and Luella too. It is well deserved.