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Fourth Circuit Law Clerks

Each circuit employs at least one recent law school graduate to provide research assistance to the judges in the circuit. The Fourth Circuit has been so fortunate in the quality of law clerks that have served our circuit since clerkships began in 1985. We wish to “honor” our past law clerks by including a brief synopsis of their lives after the Fourth Circuit in our circuit web page – we want them to know how proud we are of them and their accomplishments. Thank you to each one for your past service to our Circuit!

JOHN HAMILTON (85-86)

Employment History: The Legal Affairs Director of South Dakota Advocacy Services (19 years), which is a non-profit federally-funded agency providing advocacy and legal representation to persons with disabilities.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “Encompasses the entirety of the year I worked there and all the great people I met – the judges, the clerks, court services, states attorneys and private attorneys – everyone treated me great and even though it has been 19 years, the year I spent in the Northern Hills still holds great memories.”

JEFFREY MAKS (86-87)

Employment History: Finch, Bettmann, Maks & Hogue in Rapid City, South Dakota.

MICHAEL STRAIN (87-88)

Employment History: Morman Law Firm in Sturgis, South Dakota (18 years), where he has tried many jury trials, ranging from misdemeanor DWI and assault cases, to death penalty criminal murder cases and on the civil side, all types of cases ranging from minor dog bite cases to medical malpractice wrongful death cases and civil rights violations. On staff at the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyer's College since 1998.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “Observation of the circuit court judges trying and handling different types of criminal matters all across the western part of South Dakota. The trips up north were always fun and memorable but more so when we were involved in a jury trial which involved ‘colorful characters’. These types of trials were worth the price of admission for a clerkship.”

DEAN EISENBRAUN (88-90)

Employment History: Trammell Crow Company based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota - Contract Consultant to American Express. US, Canada and Mexico operations – also involved with best practices in South American and more recently, the UK – involves extensive travel.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “Riding the circuit in northwestern South Dakota with Judge Tschetter and turkey hunting with Judge Johns.”

THOMAS PENISTEN (90-91)

Employment History: Practiced law in Canton and Sioux Falls, primarily in the areas of personal injury, worker’s compensation, bankruptcy and criminal defense. In January, 2004, he joined the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society as a Risk Manager, where he is responsible for managing general liability and worker’s compensation claims for Good Samaritan’s captive insurance company in the states of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “Clerking for this circuit was the highlight of my legal education. Working with Judges Johnson, Johns, Tschetter and Moses was truly an honor and a privilege. I learned that running a circuit takes a team and the support staff were wonderful to work with. One outstanding highlight of my clerkship is the vision of magistrate court during the Rally, which still haunts me.”

TIMOTHY RENSCH (91-92)

Employment History: Opened his own law practice in Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1992. Since then, he has tried many cases from murders to traffic tickets, personal injury to preliminary and permanent injunctions.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “He recalls the time when the Lawrence County Courthouse was being restored and how the artist used real gold foil on the designs and colonnades. When school children would tour the courthouse, he would crumple and break the foil into dust and drop it from the third floor balcony to second floor and the school children would scramble to pick it up.”

SUZANNE FEIST (92-93)

Employment History: Opened her own law practice in Rapid City, South Dakota, receiving much direction and mentoring from Curt Ireland. She primarily practiced insurance defense work. After practicing for six years, she retired to stay home full time.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “I started working during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and I remember feeling really out of place in my suit and heels! I enjoyed sitting in on all of the jury trials and definitely came away with many pointers on ‘what I wouldn’t do’ – it was a great learning experience. My favorite writing assignment was helping Judge Johnson prepare the brief on an appeal of a murder conviction and the trial transcript was fascinating as there were multiple legal issues to address.”

KAREN HILMOE-LEONARD (93-94)

Employment History: Office of City Attorney, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

DAWN AMAN-ELSHERE (94-95)

Employment History: Currently a full time deputy state’s attorney with the Codington County State’s Attorney’s Office where she handles all of the domestic assaults, sexual assaults, child abuse and all of the abuse and neglect cases. She is also a domestic abuse and sexual assault trainer for the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “What I remember the most about being a law clerk, is that I really enjoyed working with everyone in the entire court system. I also remember taking our noon hours to go for walks and killing wasps for Veronica.”

KRISTI WAMMEN-WHITCHER (95-97)

Employment History: Immediately following her clerkship, she prosecuted criminal cases for the Lawrence County State’s Attorney’s Office. In 1998, she joined Johnson, Eiesland Law Firm in Rapid City, South Dakota, where personal injury, medical malpractice and business litigation became her focus. In addition to practicing law, she taught graduate and undergraduate law courses for the University of Phoenix online in 2003.

STEVEN NOLAN (97-98)

Employment History: Currently a partner with Bangs, McCullen, Butler, Foye & Simmons, L.L.P. in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he primarily works in the litigation area, focusing on insurance law, employment law, personal injury, real estate, and family relations.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “The one-year clerkship was an absolute wonderful experience. It helped prepare me for the practice of law, as I was able to observe and assist in all types of cases. It was also a great opportunity to get to know the Judges both inside and outside of the courtroom.”

JIM SEWARD (98-99)

Employment History: Currently the Butte County State’s Attorney, Belle Fourche, South Dakota. In the summer of 2000, Jim received a direct commission to become a JAG officer with the South Dakota National Guard and was assigned to serve with the 109th Engineer Group of Rapid City. In the fall of 2003, Jim’s unit was alerted to begin preparing for deployment to Afghanistan with the 109th Engineer Group and Combined Task Force Coyote from May 2004-May 2005. We are all so thankful that Jim has returned and we want to especially thank him for his service to our Country!

LANCE RUSSELL (99-00)

Employment History: In November, 2000, Lance was elected Fall River and Oglala Lakota County State’s Attorney and was re-elected in November, 2004.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “The most memorable experience was playing golf on the sand greens of the Bison golf course with Judge Johns. I learned a great deal during my clerkship and have very favorable memories. I will always be grateful for the education and experiences afforded me by the Circuit and Magistrate Judges of the Eighth (now Fourth) Judicial Circuit.”

MANUEL deCASTRO (00-01)

Employment History: Worked for two previous law clerks – Michael W. Strain and Timothy Rensch. More recently, he opened his own law firm in Madison where he practices family law, criminal law and personal injury.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “My clerkship allowed me to refine my research and writing skills and to watch the great lawyers in action. It was great to be able to see which things worked for lawyers and which didn’t – learn from other’s mistakes. I have so many memorable experiences as a law clerk – working on three capital cases and learning the process of how those cases work – golfing with Judge Johns, Judge Eckrich and Judge Johnson. Talking with Cindy – she taught me how to use the copier! Most of all, I made some great friends and had some great mentors to help me along the path of my legal career. I cherish my experience there.”

CHRISTINA WILLIAMS (01-02)

Employment History: After her clerkship, she moved to North Carolina for two years and worked for a Plaintiff’s firm – The Blount Law Firm. She currently works at the Gillette, Wyoming County Attorney’s Office and is studying for the Wyoming Bar Exam. When licensed in Wyoming, she will be prosecuting felony files for the Campbell County Attorney.

JASON SMILEY (02-03)

Employment History: Since August of 2003, Jason as been an associate with Gunderson, Palmer, Goodsell and Nelson where he primarily practices civil litigation, including personal injury and business litigation.

SHANE PENFIELD (03-04)

Employment History: Currently an associate at the law firm of Gunderson, Palmer, Goodsell and Nelson in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “When everyone got a good laugh at my ’81 Cadillac, which was equipped with steer horns!”

ERIC STRAWN (04-05)

Employment History: Currently working at Tellinghuisen and Gordon in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: “There can be no doubt that the clerkship is one of the best positions to obtain post graduation from Law School. In my time as a law clerk, I witnessed the practice of law unfold before my eyes with expert judges teaching me the correct avenues of practice in the 4th Circuit. I sat in on amazing cases, from police searches that crossed the constitutional barrier to adverse possession claims on wells/water rights. I assisted in researching case law, statutory history and watched hundreds of decisions being made by very competent judges. I cannot imagine my career without the resources I gained from this clerkship.

PAUL LEWIS (05-06)

Employment History: Paul is currently practicing law at Lewis Law in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: As the 4th Circuit Law Clerk, Paul indicated that he always looked forward to getting up each morning and coming to work because of the people, the job challenge, and the beautiful view from his window!

FRANCY FORAL (06-07)

Employment History: Currently an associate at Frederickson Law Office, P.C., in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: "The lessons learned in just one year as Law Clerk have already proven to be valuable as I practice law in a small firm. While I enjoyed so many things about working as the Fourth Circuit Law Clerk, my most memorable experience was the opportunity to accompany Judge Macy when he sat in for Justice Zinter at the Supreme Court in Pierre. This allowed me to observe and participate in the entire process, from reviewing counsels' briefs, to observing oral arguments, through to assisting Judge Macy with research as he wrote the opinion and ultimately finding out it represented the majority opinion of the Court."

TYLER STEINLE (07-08)

Employment History: In 2007, Tyler graduated 5th in his class from the University of South Dakota, School of Law. He became our 4th circuit law clerk on August 1, 2007. Tyler’s plans for the future involve finding employment in the beautiful Black Hills area.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: Tyler remarks that he has had so many memorable experiences here that it’s tough to choose, but one of his favorites is bantering with Judge Macy!

KYLIE DUMMETT-RIGGINS (08-09)

Employment History: Currently practicing in Rapid City, South Dakota at Viken Law Firm.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: "The law clerk experience is second to none! The most memorable aspect from the 2008-2009 year was the sheer number of trials we had. I had the opportunity to participate in high profile criminal cases, personal injury lawsuits, family law trials… you name it, we probably did it. What an amazing opportunity! Thanks 4th Circuit!"

JOHN W. WALLACE (09-10)

Employment History: Currently practicing in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, at Bennett, Main & Gubbrud, P.C.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: "Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: "Highlights include a jury trial in Timber Lake, the "North Run," a jury trial in Bison and Teen Court. I was fortunate to work with so many excellent people last year and the lessons learned were priceless. Thanks 4th Circuit!"

JOSEPH M. DYLLA (10-11)

Employment History: Currently practicing general civil litigation and appeals at the Cutler Law Firm in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: "Working with Judge Macy on a South Dakota Supreme Court case after he was appointed to hear the appeal, playing golf and eating steak with Judge Johnson during a court trial in Lemmon, and working on a month long jury trial with Judge Eckrich."

ROBERT J. ROHL (11-12)

Employment History: Robbie is a Trial Lawyer at DeMersseman Jensen Tellinghuisen & Huffman. Robbie, though new to the practice, maintains a case load ranging from low level misdemeanors to serious felony charges, including homicide and manslaughter. In addition to criminal defense, Robbie also practices in civil litigation. Robbie loves to try cases, his most notable trial was one in which his Client faced life imprisonment for 1st degree rape, aggravated incest and sexual contact with a child. After a four day trial, Robbie’s client was found not guilty of all charges.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: "An eviction trial in Butte County that Judge Macy presided over. The proceedings were in reference to removing Defendants from a junk yard that they resided in. A day’s worth of testimony came from witnesses that took the stand and referred to themselves as "Crazy Charlie," "Hippie," "Mad Max," and "True." Testimony subject matter ranged from, "drinking around a burn barrel," all the way to "crazy prescription drugs that Hippie had." One of the witnesses even advised the Court that he was a recognized rocket scientist (no Curriculum Vitae demonstrating his studies or prior work history, however, was ever introduced into evidence). It was the type of thing comedy skits from SNL are derived. I’ll never forget it."

HOLLY FARRIS (12-13)

Employment History: After clerking, Holly spent one year in private practice in Sioux Falls, SD. She is currently Deputy General Counsel to the South Dakota Department of Education in Pierre, SD.

Memorable Experience as 4th Circuit Law Clerk: "Like many previous clerks, it’s impossible to name just one occasion as the entire year was full of valuable experiences. The first that spring to mind on the practical side are working with Judge Johnson on numerous trials and a particularly complex habeas case, assisting Judge Macy as he sat with the Supreme Court for two cases, and being allowed to draft many opinions stemming from Rally cases for Judge Eckrich. In addition to the workload, I had a great time sharing daily conversations with the judges (particularly Judge Macy’s take on the news of the day and Judge Johnson’s recollections of judicial happenings from years past!) and getting to know the Fourth Circuit personnel. The third floor of the Lawrence County Courthouse was an amazing place to spend a year."

KIMBERLY R. DE HUECK (13-14)

JADE B. JORGENSON (14-15)

NICHOLAS J. PETERSON (15-16)

ERIC J. SCHLIMGEN (16-17)

LORI K. GOAD (17-18)



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