U.S. Attorney is people’s lawyer, says USD professor

KELOLAND.com Original

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — While most residents of South Dakota may never be involved with the U.S. Attorney, the attorney is still “the people’s federal, lawyer,” said Neil Fulton, the dean of the University of South Dakota Law School in Vermillion.

“The role of the U.S. Attorney within district where they are appointed to be the lawyer for the United States both in the criminal cases brought by the United States and in civil cases brought by the United States or against the United States,” Fulton said.

So in terms of handling criminal cases and civil cases on behalf of the U.S. and its citizens, “They’re your lawyer,” Fulton said. “We all want a good lawyer. You want someone who is good because they are your lawyer.”

“You want someone who is pursing good policy and making good charging decisions and good plea decisions in cases…, ” Fulton said.

The U.S. established the Department of Justice and within that the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1789.

“It was one of the very first things (founders) did…,” Fulton said.

South Dakota’s U.S. Attorney Ron Parsons Jr.  announced today he would be resigning at the end of week.

Parsons was nominated by President Donald Trump in September 2017 and started serving in his position in January 2018 following confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Attorneys are appointed by each U.S. President.

If a U.S. Attorney resigns, an interim fill the position pursuant to operation of law, said Ace Crawford, the Victim Witness Specialist/PIO with in the Rapid City office of the U.S. Attorney.

There have been changes in the U.S. Attorney’s office over the years including established policies at the national and state level, Fulton said.

Fulton has a perspective as a law professor but also from his 10 years as a federal public defender who worked in the same federal arena as the U.S. Attorney in South Dakota.

“In South Dakota we’ve always had a lot of focus in violent crime in Indian Country,” Fulton said. “Over time there have been shifts on whether guns are a priority or drugs are a priority.”

In the 10 years he was a public defender there was a shift from a priority on methamphetamine, to opioids and then, a sort of shift back to methamphetamine, Fulton said.

The policy priorities will change as events dictate, he said.

At the national level, the presidents who appoint the U.S. Attorneys may have a particular policy focus such as the Holder memorandum, Fulton said.

In 2013, then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recommended that federal prosecutors did not in general need to state the specific weight of drugs because weights triggered mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. Holder’s directive said unless the crime was tied to significant ties to drug trafficking, significant criminal histories or leadership roles, the weight of drugs did not need to be stated.

While appointments to U.S. Attorney are political appointments , Fulton said, the appointments made in South Dakota, the qualifications of appointees have been at the forefront.

Since 1861, the state has had 46 U.S. Attorneys including permanent and interim positions.

South Dakota has had one permanent female U.S. Attorney since 1861. Karen E. Schreier was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Michelle G. Tapken was appointed interim U.S. Attorney three times in 2001, 2002 and 2005.

The U.S. Attorney may be working with local law enforcement in South Dakota counties and cities, it must also work with federal law agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Internal Revenue Service, Postal Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and others.

Those agencies will investigate various federal crimes including narcotics crimes, bank robbery, wire fraud, mail fraud and others.

Fulton said the U.S. Attorney and staff will also work with local authorities to discuss the handling of a crime. For example, in some smaller counties, it may make more sense for the U.S. Attorney to take on a larger drug crime than for the local county, Fulton said.

The following is the list of U.S. Attorneys in South Dakota from 1891 through today. The * designates an interim U.S. Attorney.

William Gleason1861
Henry M. Vale1861
James Christian1865
George H. Hand1866
Warren Gowles1869
William Pound1872
Hugh H. Campbell1877
John Carland1888
William E. Purcell 1888
John Murphy1889
William E. Sterling1890
Ezra W. Miller 1893
James D. Elliot1897
William G. Porter1907
Charles J. Morris1913
Robert P. Stewart1913
E.W. Fiske 1919
S. Wesley Clark1921
Olaf Eidem1926
George Phillip 1934
Leo P. Flynn1947
Clinton G. Richards1953
Harold C. Doyle 1961
William F. Clayton1969
David V. Vrooman1977
Robert D. Hiaring”1978*
Terry L. Pechota1979
Jeffrey L. Viken*1981*
Philip N. Hogen1981
* Is an interim.
Kevin V. Schieffer*1991*
Ted L. McBride*1993*
Karen E. Schreier1993
Ted L. McBride *1999
Michelle G. Tapken*2001*
Scott A. Abdallah2001
Michelle G. Tapken*2002*
James E. McMahon2002
Michelle G. Tapken*2005*
Steven K. Mullins2005
* Is an interim.
Marty J. Jackley2006
Dennis R. Holmes*2009*
Brendon Johnson2009
Randolph J. Seiler*2015
Dennis R. Holmes*2018*
Ronald A. Parsons, Jr. 2018
*Is an interim.

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