Nov 28, 2021  
2009-2010 Graduate Catalog 
2009-2010 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Law (J.D.)

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The University of South Dakota
The School of Law
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069-2390
Phone: 605-677-5443



Juris Doctor

Professor Barry R. Vickrey
Associate Dean: Thomas L. Sorensen
Assistant Dean: Angela Ericson


Program Description

The mission of the University of South Dakota School of Law is to prepare the lawyers and judges who will administer the Federal, State, and American Indian Tribal justice systems in South Dakota and to provide a legal education to South Dakota residents, along with nonresidents who choose to attend the school, which will serve as a solid foundation for the practice of law or other professional careers anywhere in the world. Students at the Law School are a highly selective group that has demonstrated intellectual aptitude and personal characteristics desirable in the legal profession, including a desire to serve others.

A primary objective of the Law School curriculum is to develop analytical and other skills that are fundamental for the legal profession. The faculty employ a variety of pedagogical techniques to achieve that objective, including Socratic dialogue, the case method, lecture, and simulation. The curriculum is designed to familiarize students with basic legal doctrines and to instill in them the values of the legal profession and the judicial system.

Students also have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of co-curricular activities at local, regional, and national levels. These student activities complement the formal components of the curriculum and assist in the development of legal skills. Skill-building activities include, but are not limited to, participation in the South Dakota Law Review, the Sustainable Development Journal of Law, the Moot Court Board, the Client Counseling and Negotiation Board, and Trial Advocacy. 


Rachel K. Alexander, Assistant Professor, Director of Legal Writing. J.D., Creighton University, Member, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Minnesota Bars. Courses: South Dakota Practice, Fundamental Legal Skills, Appellate Advocacy.

Roger M. Baron, Professor, J.D., University of Missouri-Columbia. Member, South Dakota, Missouri, and Texas Bars. Courses: Civil Procedure, Family Law, Insurance.

Elizabeth Burleson, Assistant Professor, L.L.M., London School of Economics, J.D., University of Connecticut. Member, Connecticut, South Dakota, District of Columbia Bars. Courses: Energy Law, International Environmental Law, Public International Law, Property II, United Nations Law, Water Law.

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

Patrick M. Garry, Associate Professor, J.D., University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Ph.D., University of Minnesota. Member, Minnesota Bar. Courses: Media Law, Administrative Law, Advanced Torts, Education and the Law, Pretrial Process, Honors Seminar on Supreme Court and the First Amendment.

Thomas Earl Geu, Professor, J.D., University of Nebraska. Member, South Dakota, Nebraska, and District of Columbia Bars. Courses: Business Association, Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Modern Real Estate Transactions.

Randall J. Gingiss, Professor, J.D., University of Michigan; LL.M., DePaul University; M.B.A., University of Chicago; CPA, Illinois. Member, South Dakota and Illinois Bars. Courses: Estate and Gift Tax, Estate Planning, Property, Trusts and Wills.

Thomas J. Horton, Assistant Professor, J.D., Case Western University, M.A.L.S., Georgetown University. Member, District of Columbia, Ohio Bars. Course: Trial Techniques.

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.

Patrice H. Kunesh
, Associate Professor of Law, Director, USD Institute of American Indian Studies. J.D., University of Colorado. Member, South Dakota, Colorado, Connecticut, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court Bars. Courses: American Indian Natural Resources, Children & the Law, Legislation, Property I.

Michael J. Myers, Associate Professor of Law. J.D., University of South Dakota. Member, South Dakota and Iowa Bars. Courses: Elder Law, Health Care Law & Policy, Alternative Dispute Resolution, The Business of Law.

Jo M. Pasqualucci
, Professor, J.D., University of Wisconsin; S.J.D., George Washington University. Member, South Dakota and Wisconsin Bars. Courses: Commercial Law, International Business Transactions, Public International Law, Secured Transactions.

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

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: Advanced Torts, Debtors’ and Creditors’ Rights, Negotiation and Settlement, Torts.

Barry R. Vickrey, Dean and Professor, J.D., Vanderbilt University. Member, South Dakota and Tennessee Bars. Course: Legal Profession.


Law School Admission Requirements

For degree-seeking students, four items are required to complete the application process:

  • A completed application. A completed application form supplied by the School of Law or through the LSAC must be submitted with a non–refundable application fee of $35.
  • An LSDAS Law School Report. The applicant must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and have each college send official transcripts to the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS), who will analyze the transcripts and send the analysis and LSAT score to any schools requested by the applicant.
  • Two letters of recommendation. The applicant must submit 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.
  • A personal statement. The personal statement must be typewritten, single-spaced, and not more than 350 words in length. 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.

    For complete admissions information, please see the Admissions Guidebook found on the School of Law website at


Joint Degree Program Description

The School of Law offers a joint degree program with other colleges/schools of The University of South Dakota leading to the juris doctor degree and a master’s degree in one of the following nine disciplines:

  • College of Arts and Sciences
JD/Master of Arts in English
JD/Master of Arts in History
JD/Master of Arts in Political Science
JD/Master of Arts in Psychology
JD/Master of Public Administration
JD/Master of Science in Administrative Studies
  • School of Business
JD/Master of Business Administration
JD/Master of Professional Accountancy
  • School of Education
JD/Master of Arts in Education Administration


Dual Degree Program in Environmental Law

Vermont Law School and The University of South Dakota School of Law offer a dual-degree program that enables qualified students to earn two degrees in three years: a J.D. from South Dakota and a Master of Studies in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School. The dual-degree program is composed of courses taught at Vermont Law School’s Summer Session and courses offered by distance learning from Vermont Law School during the regular academic year, or a combination of Summer Session, distance learning courses, and internships.


Flex-Time Option

This option will permit 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 years. Flex-time students follow the same class schedule as all other students, but take fewer hours each semester. The program’s flexibility is designed to admit a limited number of well-qualified students who could not otherwise attend law school on a full-time basis. The Law School does not offer evening or weekend courses.


Accelerated Admission

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 course work 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. 

Graduate Student Enrollment in Law Courses

Graduate students who are not enrolled in the Law School may be allowed to take 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 consult the two-year course schedule (found in the Curriculum Guidebook on the Law School website at to see what courses are being taught in the current two-year rotation. They should then 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) 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. 

Graduation Requirements

First-Year Required Courses: Total 31 credit hours

The first-year curriculum is designed to give students a broad understanding of the American legal system and the role of law in our society. The required first-year courses expose students to the fundamental principles of needed legal skills, including legal analysis.

  • Civil Procedure I & II, 6 credit hours
  • Contracts I & II, 5 credit hours
  • Criminal Law, 3 credit hours
  • Criminal Procedure, 3 credit hours
  • Property I & II, 4 credit hours
  • Fundamental Legal Skills I & II, 5 credit hours
  • Torts I & II, 5 credit hours

Second-Year and Third-Year Studies

The required, upper-division courses include Evidence, Legal Profession, Constitutional Law, and a code course, complete the core curriculum, and are taken during the second year of study. In addition, upper-division students take other, elective courses. The upper-division curriculum offers opportunities to develop and refine practice skills and to apply accumulated legal learning by resolving practical problems. Third-year students may enroll in the Extern Education Program during the summer before they begin third year courses to acquire practical experience in a law firm, governmental agency, or other law office. An upper-level writing requirement must also be completed in order to qualify for graduation, which requires a total of 90 credit hours.

Upper-Division Required Courses: 13–14 credit hours

  • Constitutional Law, 4 credit hours
  • Evidence, 3 credit hours
  • Legal Profession, 3 credit hours
  • Commercial Law*, 4 credit hours
  • Federal Income Tax*, 4 credit hours
  • Secured Transactions*, 3 credit hours

    * Only one of the three code courses is required

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