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State Bar of South Dakota

State Bar of South Dakota
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Pierre, SD 57501
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Message from your President

 

August 2014

On July 10 and 11, the Bar Commissioners gathered for orientation and the State Bar’s annual budget meeting. We welcomed new commissioners Clint Sargent, Brad Lee, Stacy Johnson and Bob Morris. The Bar Commissioners worked hard and gave thoughtful input into the agenda items and the budget. Rest assured, they are good stewards of your bar dues and take their jobs seriously. President Elect Schulte and I are looking forward to a productive year with this group.
In addition, the Young Lawyer officers and board members participated in the orientation and had an opportunity to interact with the Bar Commissioners. The Young Lawyers Section, capably led by President Jennifer Williams, is an important public service arm of the State Bar. We thank the Young Lawyers for their dedication to the profession and encourage all Young Lawyers to get involved in the Young Lawyers Section. The experience will be rewarding and allow you to become more familiar with the workings of the State Bar of South Dakota.
Printed elsewhere in this newsletter, you will find committee assignments. Your active participation in committees is an important aspect of our organization which cannot be overstated. Strategic Plan Coordinator Francy Floral is the liaison between the committees and bar leadership. She is more than willing to assist committee chairs as they do this important work. Thank you to all who showed interest in committee participation and particularly the committee chairs who are being asked to assist bar leadership and administration in accomplishing the objectives of our State Bar.

LAWYERS IN THE LEGISLATURE

Imagine, if you will, what our country’s form of government might look like if no lawyers had participated in some of our nation’s most significant historic events. Twenty-five of the fifty-six signors of the Declaration of Independence had a legal background. Thirty-four of the fifty-five members of the Constitutional Convention were lawyers and twenty-two of the thirty-nine signatures on the United States Constitution are from individuals who were trained and educated in the law. It is without question that the role of lawyers in framing these treasured documents contributed tremendously to their quality and lasting power. Who could have imagined that the shortest and now oldest constitution of any major government in the world would have such a dynamic impact for many generations to come.
Throughout history, society has relied on lawyers to develop laws which reflect society standards while adhering to the constitutional provisions which have guided our nation for 227 years.
Flash forward to the 2014 South Dakota legislative session. The South Dakota Senate had no members trained in the law. This is not only disheartening, but is also a disservice to the public citizenry of South Dakota that we are obligated to serve.
No one would ever suggest that lawyers are the only persons capable of developing ideas to make our state better. However, an attorney’s training and instruction are valuable tools in analyzing the impact of proposed rules and legislation. A significant portion of this work is done in legislative committees. The Senate Judiciary Committee, without a single lawyer, was regularly dealing with legislation that impacted our system of justice in a significant way. In order to assist, the Board of Bar Commissioners often directed Secretary/Treasurer and lobbyist Tom Barnett to take a position on proposed legislation. While this may seem unpopular at times, the State Bar has been willing to step in to make sure that injustices do not occur.
Over the years, South Dakota has been blessed with some great lawyers who stepped forward and accepted the obligation to serve and lead in our legislature. I personally witnessed this when interning for the late Joe Barnett in 1985. We are grateful that there are lawyers who have been and are now willing to serve. However, as a profession, we have to do a better job of accepting this responsibility. More lawyers need to make the commitment to follow the lead of people like David Lust who is finishing his fourth and final term in the South Dakota House of Representatives where he has not only been a leader, but a tribute to our profession. A great deal of gratitude is owed to David for his work and here are his words about his experience.

My first run for the legislature eight years ago was somewhat impulsive. I was not terribly active in politics prior to that time but kept abreast of what was happening in Pierre and DC. At the time I decided to run I had no idea I would serve for eight years, six of it in leadership positions, and devote so much time and energy to it. Like the boiling frog it kind of snuck up on me.
As I look back on the last eight years I believe it was a worthwhile endeavor. Service in the legislature is intellectually stimulating and engaging. While at times the rigors of maintaining a law practice, attending to family duties, and dealing with policy and political issues was daunting it was mostly manageable. My law partners and associates at Gunderson, Palmer were supportive and willing to help in every way. Without them, a great legal assistant, and a cooperative spouse it would not have been possible.
Sadly, too many attorneys focus on the difficulties of legislative service and not enough on the positive aspects. My kids had the opportunity to spend time in Pierre roaming the halls of the Capitol, meeting legislators, the Governor and Lt. Governor and learning about the legislative process. They also helped me campaign and listened to many debates and phone conversations. I am hopeful that these experiences will help shape their outlook and instill an expectancy of public service. On a personal note, serving in Pierre and especially as Majority Leader was a good way to challenge myself on a host of different levels. I learned that anything is manageable for two months and it is very easy to become secure in the routines of family life and practicing law. I now know that I can shake things up dramatically and still make it all work and hopefully make a difference. It is gratifying knowing that my comfort zone is far more elastic than I had imagined. I firmly believe that is true for most of us in the legal profession and hope that other attorneys will cast caution aside a bit and run for office. Attorneys are greatly needed in Pierre and contribute mightily to the process.

In the 2014 general election, there are ten lawyer candidates remaining. Those candidates are Art Rusch, Lee Schoenbeck, Mark Mickelson, Mike Stevens, Roger Hunt, Lance Russell, Timothy Johns, Brian Gosch, Steven Haugaard, and Chris McClure. Regardless of political affiliation, do your part to support these candidates whether it be financially or by spreading the word about their ability to do the job for all citizens. Beyond that, it’s not too early to begin considering potential candidates for the 2016 election cycle. At your firm meetings and retreats over the next year, make this a topic of discussion. Identify members of your firm who may have an interest in public office. As a firm and in furtherance of your duty to society, encourage and support a firm member’s candidacy. In addition, direct your partners and associates to actively recruit and support other lawyers as potential candidates. It is our duty to our profession to do our part to make the great state we call home better by providing our valuable assistance in the legislative process. This won’t happen unless our firms step forward and accept this challenge.

In addition, the Public Service Committee of the State Bar, co-chaired by Dave Knudson and Scott Heidepriem, has pledged to provide information, direction and advice to those considering a potential legislative run. This committee and its members will be a great resource for our members who make this commitment.
Seriously consider answering the call to serve. You are prepared and can make a difference.


Tom Frieberg

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