Panel Topic - Project Rural Practice: Access to Justice for All
This panel focused on current efforts in the State of South Dakota with regard to rural practice. Patrick M. Goetzinger and Robert L. Morris, both former South Dakota Bar Presidents, and Co-Chairs of the Project Rural Practice Task Force, discussed the implementation and status of Project Rural Practice. Leroy “J.R.” LaPlante, Secretary of Tribal Relations for the South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations, discussed tribal practice in rural areas of South Dakota. Thomas C. Barnett, Jr. discussed the passage of HB1096, South Dakota's unique rural practice recruitment legislation. This panel was moderated by Robert L. Morris.
Thomas C. Barnett, Jr.
Thomas C. Barnett, Jr., has been serving the State Bar of South Dakota as the Secretary-Treasurer and Executive Director since 1989. In addition to the duties as the executive director of the State Bar, he also serves as secretary to the Disciplinary Board, the CEO and CFO of the South Dakota Bar Foundation, and has been Director of Continuing Legal Education for the State Bar since 1991. He has been a frequent CLE speaker for the past 25 years. Tom graduated from USD with a Bachelor of Arts in 1973 and a J.D. from the USD School of Law in 1976. He served on a number of state bar committees, including chair of the criminal law committee. He was elected to the Board of Bar Commissioners in 1987. He is a regular guest-lecturer at the USD Law School on issues of ethics, discipline, and legal malpractice. He was president of the South Dakota States’ Attorneys Association for two years. Tom is a member of the American Bar Association and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He has been a member of National Association of Bar Executives since 1989, is a member of the Governmental Relations Section, and is a past Chair of the Section.
Patrick G. Goetzinger
Patrick G. Goetzinger is a partner in the Rapid City law firm Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, LLP where he leads the firm's Business and Estate Planning Group and serves on the firm's Executive Committee.
Pat is Past President of the South Dakota State Bar Association, a Fellow in the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, past Chair of the Business Law Committee Property, Probate and Trust Section of the South Dakota State Bar. He is currently the Co-Chair of the South Dakota State Bar’s Project Rural Practice Initiative.
Pat was recently selected by his peers for inclusion in the 20th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America in Corporate law, Land Use & Zoning Law, Mergers & Acquisitions Law, Non-Profit/Charities Law and Real Estate Law. He was also named the Best Lawyers 2014 Rapid City Real Estate Law "Lawyer of the Year".
Leroy "J.R." LaPlante
Leroy "J.R." LaPlante is the Secretary of Tribal Relations for the South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations.
LaPlante, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, practiced law in Vermillion and served as the Chief Judge and court Administrator for the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in Ft. Thompson. Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed LaPlante as the Secretary of Tribal Relations, a new position in the Governor's Cabinet, in 2011.
In addition to his practice within the law, Secretary LaPlante has worked in tribal administration and social work. He is a member of the first cohort of Native Nation Rebuilders selected by the Bush Foundation in 2010 and served as an Equal Justice Works, AmeriCorps Legal Fellow with South Dakota Access to Justice in 2009.
LaPlante's Lakota name is Tasunke Waste, which means Horse is Beautiful. He is married to Kathy, as has one daughter.
Robert L. Morris
Bob serves as the Co-Chair of Project Rural Practice along with his 1988 USD School of Law classmate, Patrick Goetzinger.
Bob graduated from Deubrook High School, in White, South Dakota, in 1975. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1975 through 1979. He was trained in Law Enforcement and worked as a Military Working Dog Handler, Drug Dog Handler, U.S. Customs Military Debarkation Europe Inspector and Black Marketing Special Investigator. After his discharge, Bob worked for the SD Department of Social Services Office of Child Support Enforcement until he began college in 1981.
Bob graduated from that highly intellectual institution in Brookings, South Dakota – SDSU – in 1984. He graduated from the USD School of Law as a Sterling Honor Society Member in 1988. Bob has been practicing law in the “Center of the Nation” – Belle Fourche, South Dakota – since 1988. He is the sole owner of Morris Law Firm, Prof. LLC and is a litigation attorney with an emphasis in construction law, insurance law and personal injury.