Panel Topic - The Rural Question: Legal and Developmental Concerns in Rural America
This panel focused on the sociological and economic aspects unique to rural areas and the role of the legal system in the lives of rural Americans. Judith Meierhenry, retired South Dakota Supreme Court Justice, provided her perspective gained from her many years serving on the bar and bench in South Dakota and growing up in a rural part of the state. Dr. Daniel T. Lichter, who holds a Ph.D in Sociology and is also a native of South Dakota, offered expertise on rural demographics. Linda L. Chezem, who holds a dual appointment to Purdue University’s School of Medicine and Indiana University’s School of Agriculture, discussed the implications of public health law to rural legal practice. Elsie M. Meeks, State Director of the USDA Rural Development in South Dakota, discussed economic development with regard to rural areas. Kenneth J. Goldsmith, Legislative Counsel and Director of State Legislation for the ABA, completed the panel, providing his perspective on federal and state rural policy. This panel was moderated by Lisa R. Pruitt, honored guest speaker at Friday’s lunch.
Linda L. Chezem
Judge Chezem completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at Indiana State University and the Indiana University (Bloomington) School of Law. After private practice in Paoli, Indiana, she was consecutively appointed to the Lawrence County Court, the Lawrence Circuit Court, and the Indiana Court of Appeals for a total of twenty-two years of service. She was the first woman appointed to a Circuit Court bench in Indiana and the second woman to serve on the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Chezem presently holds a dual appointment to Purdue University’s School of Medicine and Indiana University’s School of Agriculture, from which base she informs federal, state, and local policy on justice and health issues for youth and families.
Chezem and her son, Andrew, own and operate her family grain and beef farm in Clay County. Her husband owns and operates his family grain farms in Clinton County and Carroll County. Their daughter operates their Scott County farm.
Chezem currently serves on the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Her service with non-government organizations includes the Morgan County Economic Development Corp, Rural Revolving Loan Committee.
Kenneth J. Goldsmith
Ken Goldsmith is Legislative Counsel and Director for State Legislation for the American Bar Association. Since November 2008, his federal lobbying portfolio has focused almost exclusively on military servicemembers, veterans and their caregivers. As Director for State Legislation, Ken serves as a national nexus among state, local and other bar associations, as well as national organizations that focus on state government. Ken has been with the ABA for 20 years serving in a variety of counsel and project director positions and actively engaged on issues concerning homeless veterans and natural disaster relief. He is a member of the Maryland State Bar, board member with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the U.S. Humane Society N-DART, and serves in different leadership roles with the National Association of Bar Executives, receiving NABE’s Peer Excellence Award in 2013. Ken graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. and a minor in East Asian Studies and received his law degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law. He currently lives in Kensington, Maryland where he held local political office and is active in a number of community causes.
Daniel T. Lichter
Dr. Daniel T. Lichter is the Ferris Family professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Professor of Sociology, and Director of the Cornell Population Center. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology in 1981 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He joined the Cornell faculty in August 2005. He taught previously at Pennsylvania State University (1981-1999) and The Ohio State University (1999-2005).
Dr. Lichter has published widely on topics in population and public policy, including studies of concentrated poverty and inequality, intermarriage, cohabitation and marriage among disadvantaged women, and immigrant incorporation. His recent work, for example, has focused on changing ethnoracial boundaries, as measured by shifting patterns of interracial marriage and residential segregation in the United States. He is especially interested in America's racial and ethnic transformation, growing diversity, and the implications for the future.
Dr. Lichter is past-president of the Association of Population Centers (2001-2002), the Population Association of America (2012) and the Rural Sociological Society (2011-2012). He also has served as editor of Demography (2002-2004), the flagship journal of the Population Association of America.
Lichter is a native of South Dakota. He grew up in Mitchell, South Dakota, and is an alumnus of South Dakota State University (1971-1975).
Elsie M. Meeks
Elsie Meeks was named State Director of the USDA Rural Development in South Dakota by the Obama Administration on July 27, 2009. In this capacity, she coordinates the efforts of 72 employees to work with others to ensure use of resources and 40 + programs are serving rural South Dakota residents. Through her leadership, communities and rural residents will have the opportunity to develop and grow while also improving their quality of life.
Prior to joining USDA, Meeks was the President/CEO of First Nations Oweesta Corporation and has over 20 years experience working for Native community economic development. Before her leadership and work at Oweesta, Meeks was active for 20 years in the development and management of The Lakota Funds, a small business and microenterprise development loan fund CDFI on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
Meeks completed a six-year term on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and was the first Native American to serve on the Commission. She was the chairperson for the Native Financial Education Coalition, for which Oweesta served as the lead organization.
Meeks and her husband Jim make their home on their ranch near Kyle, SD on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Justice Judith Meierhenry, Ret.
Judith Meierhenry is a retired Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court. Before serving on the Supreme Court, she was a South Dakota Circuit Court Judge and Presiding Judge in the Second Judicial Circuit. Her career includes private practice, government service, and in-house business counsel. She has published articles in the South Dakota Law Review and co-authored with Mark Meierhenry, South Dakota Trial Handbook for Lawyers. She is the recipient of The Marshall McKusick Award, the Fred Nichol Outstanding Jurist Award, the South Dakota Law Review Alumni Achievement Award and the Lawyer of the Year Award from USD Women in law. She resides in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but her roots are firmly planted in rural Gregory County, South Dakota, where she spends part of her time at their cabin near her family homestead.