Jan 22, 2020  
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog 
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Law, School of

Dean: Thomas Earl Geu
Associate Dean: Tiffany C. Graham
Assistant Dean: Eric Young

University of South Dakota School of Law
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069-2390
Phone: 605-677-5443
Email: law@usd.edu



David S. Day, Professor, J.D., University of Iowa. Member, California Bar. Courses: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Rights, First Amendment Rights.

Myanna Dellinger, Associate Professor, J.D., University of Oregon School of Law. Member, California Bar. Courses: Sales and Leases, Secured Transactions, Public International Law, Human Rights.

Patrick M. Garry, Professor, J.D., University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Ph.D., University of Minnesota. Member, Minnesota Bar. Courses: Media and Communications Law, Administrative Law, Advanced Torts, Employment Law.

Thomas Earl Geu, Dean and Professor, J.D., University of Nebraska. Member, South Dakota, Nebraska, and District of Columbia Bars.

Tiffany C. Graham, Associate Dean and Senior Lecturer, J.D., University of Virginia. Member, California Bar. Course: Race and the Law.

Hannah Haksgaard, Assistant Professor, J.D., University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. Member, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota Bars. Courses: Family Law, Modern Real Estate, Employment Discrimination.

Wendy Hess, Associate Professor, J.D., University of Denver. Member, Maryland, District of Columbia, and South Dakota Bars. Courses: Fundamental Legal Skills.

Thomas J. Horton, Professor, J.D., Case Western University, M.A.L.S., Georgetown University. Member, District of Columbia, Ohio Bars. Courses: Trial Techniques, Antitrust & Consumer Protection Law, Honors Seminar.

Mary Christine Hutton, Professor, J.D., Washburn University; LL.M., Harvard University. Member, South Dakota and Kansas Bars. Courses: Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Advanced Criminal Procedure, Evidence.

Sean Kammer, Associate Professor, J.D., Duke University. Member, Ohio and South Dakota Bards. Courses: Environmental Law, Natural Resources Law, Energy Law, Water Law, Foundations of Law.

Allen Madison, Associate Professor, J.D., Hofstra University, LL.M., Taxation, Georgetown University Law Center. Member, New York, District of Columbia, California, Michigan and South Dakota Bars. Courses: Federal Income Tax, Business Planning, Federal Tax Procedure, Non-Profit Organizations.

Nikki McCain, Lecturer, J.D., Florida Coastal School of Law, LL.M., Taxation, University of Denver. Member, Tennessee Bar. Courses: Low Income Taxpayer Clinic I and II.

Michael McKey, Lecturer, J.D., University of Texas. Member, Texas and District of Columbia Bars. Courses: Fundamental Legal Skills, Business Organizations.

Ramon Ortiz-Velez, Senior Lecturer, J.D., Seattle University School of Law, LL.M., Taxation, University of Washington School of Law. Member, Washington Bar. Courses: Externships, Law Practice Management, Military Law, South Dakota Drafting and Legal Practice.

Frank R. Pommersheim, Professor, J.D., Columbia University; M.P.A., Harvard University. Member, South Dakota and Oregon Bars. Courses: Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Federal Jurisdiction, Indian Law, Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Tribal Courts and Tribal Law. Serves on six tribal courts across the U.S.

Tom Simmons, Associate Professor, J.D., University of South Dakota. Member South Dakota Bar. Courses: Property, Estate Planning, Trusts & Wills, Legal Profession.

Charles M. Thatcher, Professor, J.D., Ohio Northern University. Member, South Dakota and Ohio Bars. Courses: Conflict of Laws, Contracts, Remedies.

Jonathan K. Van Patten, Professor, J.D., University of California at Los Angeles. Member, South Dakota and California Bars. Courses: Debtors’ and Creditors’ Rights, Negotiation and Settlement, Torts, Discovery Practice.

Eric Young, Law Library Director, Assistant Dean and Senior Lecturer, J.D., Northern Kentucky University, Salmon P. Chase College of Law, M.L.S., Indiana University Bloomington. Member, OH. Courses: Legal Research Foundations, Advanced Legal Research.


Juris Doctor  

Program Description

The University of South Dakota’s School of Law was established in 1901. It has been accredited by the American Bar Association since 1923 and has been a member of the Association of American Law Schools since 1907. The School of Law has a diverse, scholarly, and highly-accomplished faculty who have obtained their J.D., and in some cases advanced law degrees, from a variety of respected institutions across the country. Many faculty members have practice experience in addition to their many years of teaching experience. School of Law students come from a variety of backgrounds and, upon graduation and admission to a bar, enter law practice in South Dakota and throughout the nation.

The University of South Dakota School of Law offers a high-quality legal education at an affordable cost in a small, friendly school with many opportunities for specialized instruction and personal assistance. Prospective students are encouraged to consider carefully the many advantages available as a student of the University of South Dakota School of Law. We encourage you to visit our website at www.usd.edu/law and to visit our campus in Vermillion. The faculty and staff are available to discuss legal education generally and how the programs at the USD School of Law can be designed to fit individual needs.


Applications will be reviewed upon receipt of all of the following materials:


Applications must be submitted using the LSAC electronic application service. The application along with the application fee may be submitted via this service.  The LSAT and CAS Reports will accompany the application. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) may be contacted via its website (www.LSAC.org).

Law School Admission Test
Applicants must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). LSAT information such as deadlines, test dates, and registration can be found on the LSAC website at www.LSAC.org.

Credential Assembly Service
Applicants must have each college attended send official transcripts to the Credential Assembly Service (CAS).  The CAS will guide the applicant on how and where to submit transcripts.  The CAS will analyze the transcripts and send the analysis and LSAT score to any schools requested by the applicant.  CAS registration forms and Transcript Request Forms are available by subscribing to CAS at www.LSAC.org.

An applicant expecting to be awarded a baccalaureate degree may have his or her law school application considered before graduation.  Any such applicant should send CAS transcripts documenting the applicant’s record during the first seven semesters or ten quarters of his or her undergraduate education.  Upon graduation from undergraduate school, the applicant must also request the undergraduate registrar to send an official transcript to the School of Law.  All records become a part of the applicant’s official file and will not be returned.  If an applicant’s LSAT score is more than three years old when the application is considered, the Admissions Committee may request that the applicant retake the test and submit an updated CAS report.

Two Letters of Recommendation
The applicant must submit at least two letters of recommendation from instructors, employers, or supervisors.  Applicants who have received their undergraduate or graduate degree within the preceding three years must include an academic letter of reference.  No particular form is required for the letters of recommendation.  In evaluating the applicant’s aptitude, character, and promise, the Admissions Committee will discount any perfunctory letters from persons only casually acquainted with the applicant.

Personal Statement
The statement should detail evidence of qualities beyond academic abilities, such as leadership ability, service to others, maturity, organizational skills, familiarity with other languages and cultures, a history of overcoming disadvantage, extraordinary accomplishment, or success in a previous career.  The statement should also explain what contributions the applicant may bring to The University of South Dakota School of Law and the legal profession.  Moreover, the statement should address the student’s reason(s) for going to law school.

Application Fee
An application fee of thirty-five dollars ($35.00).  The check should be made payable to USD.

Note:  Applicants to the Law School are advised that there are character, fitness, and other qualifications for admission to a state’s Bar.  The applicant, prior to matriculation, should determine what those requirements are in the state in which the applicant intends to practice.  Contact information for state Bar examinations is located at www.ncbx.org.


Applications are accepted on a rolling basis each year.  Early completion (September) of an applicant’s file permits its prompt consideration by the Admissions Committee.   In addition, entering merit scholarships are awarded to accepted applicants early in the admission cycle.  However, scholarship offers to those applying after January 1 would first become available after the LSAC’s recommended enrollment commitment date of April 1.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure completion of the application.  Applicants are encouraged to take the LSAT in June of the preceding year.  The applicant should also register with the CAS and ensure that transcripts of their undergraduate and graduate records are forwarded to that service so their files can be compiled by the Service and forwarded to the Law School.  Applicants should keep the Law School advised of their current phone number, email, and address.

A non-refundable deposit is due by April 1.  A second non-refundable depoFsit will be required in July.

In order to matriculate, an accepted applicant must provide proof of the conferral of an undergraduate degree by submitting the applicant’s official transcript showing an awarded baccalaureate degree no later than August 10 or as arranged with the Law School Registrar.  The submission of the official transcripts to the Law School is in addition to the submission of the transcripts to the CAS and cannot be waived.  Applicants who have not submitted an official transcript showing completion of an undergraduate degree, or made proper arrangements with the Registrar to provide such proof by August 10, will not be allowed to attend.  In rare instances where the actual awarding of the degree is delayed by a factor outside the applicant’s control, the Law School may accept documentation from the undergraduate degree granting institution that verifies the degree requirements have been completed and provides the anticipated graduation date.


An applicant may apply, become admitted to, and enroll in the Law School without completion of the requirements for the applicant’s undergraduate degree. To be considered for accelerated admission, the applicant must have completed, prior to enrollment in the Law School, at least three-fourths of the required coursework for the undergraduate degree. Additionally, the applicant must submit a plan that shows precisely how the applicant intends to complete the requirements for the undergraduate degree prior to graduation from Law School.

3+3 PROGRAM OPTION (by application)

This program is available by application, to eligible University of South Dakota students.

Students must:

  • be enrolled in USD’s College of Arts and Sciences;
  • earn 90 undergraduate credits by the end of the junior year;1
  • meet all major, distribution, general education, and testing requirements in accord with institutional and regental policies, guidelines, and requirements by the end of the junior year;
  • have at least a 3.25 cumulative GPA by the end of the junior year, and must earn at least a 152 on the LSAT;2
  • submit to the School of Law a statement of interest regarding entry into the 3+3 program option by the beginning of the third semester;
  • enroll, during their junior year, in a 3+3 Specialized Course and pass it with the equivalent of a 75, or a C;
  • earn at least 45 of their credits in residence at the College of Arts and Sciences;
  • receive a letter of recommendation from the department chair or program director of his or her undergraduate major attesting not only to the student’s intellectual strengths, but also to the student’s maturity, work ethic, and overall readiness for graduate school (in addition to the two letters that are required in the standard admissions process);
  • complete the standard application for admission to the School of Law.

1Alternatively, for ABA standards, have completed three-quarters of the required credits to degree.

2If a 3+3 program applicant moderately deviates from these requirements, and demonstrates evidence of extraordinary character, leadership, and maturity, the School of Law reserves the right to make an exception and grant admission in that case.


USD degree-seeking graduate students who are not enrolled in the Law School may be allowed to take certain Law School courses for credit on a case-by-case basis, subject to approval by the professor teaching the course. Graduate students interested in doing so should contact the Office of the Dean to indicate their desire to take Law School courses. The Dean’s Office will contact the course professors and notify the students that enrollment has been approved or disapproved. Notifications will include any conditions on enrollment.

Conditions on enrollment are determined by each individual professor and may include, but are not limited to, the following matters:

  • Waiver of prerequisites, if required for law students
  • Adjustment of course requirements
  • Final examination requirements
  • Evaluation of course performance on a separate scale from law students

Students should be aware that the Law School curriculum is rigorous and course content will not, on the whole, be adjusted to accommodate non-law students. First-year law classes (700 series) and other required, upper-level courses are not open to attendance by non-law students. In no case will a course be open to non-law students if sufficient space in the class is not available. Students who have not completed their bachelor’s degree will not be considered.


It is required that foreign transcripts be submitted through the LSAC JD Credential Assembly Service (CAS).  Any postsecondary work completed outside the US (including its territories) or Canada must use this service for the evaluation of foreign transcripts.  The one exception to this requirement is if the foreign work was completed through a study abroad, consortium, or exchange program sponsored by a US or Canadian institution, and the work is clearly indicated as such on the home campus transcript.  This service is included in the CAS subscription fee.  A Foreign Credential Admissions Officer (AACRAO), which will be incorporated into your LSDAS.

International applicants for whom English is a second language must submit a current TOEFL or IELTS score to LSAC. Applicants with degrees from countries other than the United States who have obtained an undergraduate or graduate degree from a regionally-accredited American college or university are exempt from this requirement. Similarly, applicants who received a conferred degree from an institution in the UK, Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, or New Zealand are also exempt from this requirement.  This requirement may also be waived if the applicant received a conferred degree from an international institution in which English was the medium of instruction and for which there was an English proficiency requirement in order to gain admission. The School of Law requires a minimum TOEFL score of 79 on the Internet-Based TOEFL (IBT) or 550 on the written TOEFL or a minimum IELTS score of 6.0.

LSAC’s TOEFL code for the JD Credential Assembly Service is 0058. The applicant’s score will be included in the Foreign Credential Evaluation document that will be included in the applicant’s LSDAS law school report.


To use the JD CAS, the applicant must login to his or her online account and follow the instructions for registering for the service.  Be sure to print out a Transcript Request Form for the University of South Dakota School of Law and promptly send it.  More time is usually required to receive foreign transcripts.

Questions about the JD Credential Assembly Service can be directed to LSAC at 215-968-1001, or LSACINFO@LSAC.org.


A law student may apply for admission as a transfer student to the School of Law if he or she has complied with the requirements for admission and presents evidence of having satisfactorily completed at least one year of law study and eligibility to continue at any law school accredited by the American Bar Association. The School of Law awards a juris doctor degree to students who earn a minimum of 50 credit hours in residence along with all other applicable graduation requirements.


Students from other law schools may apply to be a visiting law student at the University of South Dakota School of Law. Visiting students should contact the Office of Admissions at law@usd.edu or by phone at (605)-677-5443 to request a paper application. Visiting students must submit a paper application, a copy of his or her CAS report from the current law school, and a letter of good standing from the current Dean. These materials may be submitted by email (law@usd.edu) or by mail (USD School of Law, Office of Admissions, 414 East Clark Street, Vermillion, SD 57069-2390).

Program of Study

The School of Law is accredited as a full-time program leading to a juris doctor (J.D.)  degree upon completion of 90 semester hours of courses in six full-time semesters. Students enter the School of Law in the fall of each year. In preparing to apply to law school, students are advised that there are moral character, fitness, and other qualifications for admission to a state’s bar. The applicant, prior to matriculation, should determine what those requirements are in the state in which the applicant intends to practice. Contact information for state bar examinations is found at www.ncbex.org.

In order to qualify for the juris doctor degree, a student must complete six semesters, or their equivalent in residence. A semester is generally 15 weeks, during which a student enrolls for at least 12 credit hours and completes at least nine of these hours with passing grades.  Enrollment for the purpose of this rule must be continuous throughout the semester.  A student may not satisfy the six-semester requirement by completing the summer externship and more credit hours than the normal course load in other semesters.

The School of Law course offerings are varied and respond to the evolving and dynamic needs of the legal profession. The University of South Dakota offers a broad range of electives after students have taken the traditional first-year curriculum, including a strong curricular emphasis in Indian Law. The School of Law offers course tracks in business law, civil litigation, commercial law, constitutional law, criminal law & procedures, employment law, estate planning, Indian law, environmental law, real estate law, and tax law. A broad array of co-curricular activities and professional events further enrich the educational experience.

The Law School program leads to a juris doctor degree upon successful completion of 90 hours of credit. The full-time program covers three years; the Flex-Time program permits certain well-qualified students to take less than the normal load of credits each semester and to graduate with a juris doctor degree within five years instead of three. The School of Law offers joint degree programs leading to the juris doctor degree and a master’s degree (concurrently) from the University of South Dakota in three years in nine disciplines:

School of Business:

  • JD/Master of Professional Accountancy
  • JD/Master of Business Administration

Cross-Disciplinary Studies

  • JD/Master of Science in Administration

School of Education:

  • JD/Master of Arts in Educational Administration (Non-certified)

College of Arts & Sciences:

  • JD/Master of Arts in English
  • JD/Master of Arts in History
  • JD/Master of Arts in Political Science
  • JD/Master of Public Administration
  • JD/Master of Arts in Psychology (Non-certified)

Research and Co-Curricular Opportunities

The Law School also provides a limited number of research assistant opportunities in which upper-level law students conduct research and perform other work for law professors and senior members of the administration.  In addition, student participation in co-curricular activities enhances the classroom learning experience for many at the Law School. Students gain extraordinary experience by participating in competitions and other events through the South Dakota Law Review, Trial Advocacy, the Moot Court Board, and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Board.