“I found my heart at Wounded Knee.
In 1976, right after law school, I took a job with the Wounded Knee Defense Committee, defending Native Americans who were being harassed by the FBI — which was, in fact, genuinely out to get us.
Growing up, I always sided with the underdog, and wanted to become a people’s lawyer. The WKDC gave me that chance. Over 100 Native Americans had been charged with offenses arising from the Wounded Knee Occupation, but only 3 were convicted. It was a radicalizing experience to stand with those men, women and children, and I knew I was where I was meant to be.
As one of the only progressive attorneys in western South Dakota, I’ve done every kind of case you can imagine — civil rights, environmental law, election law, workers comp, consumer law, and more.
As a consumer lawyer I have the chance to help good people who have been treated unfairly, which is what I’ve wanted to do all along. Recently, I represented a woman, Mrs. Thurman, in a class action after she was mistreated by a bank and an insurance company. She’d had a challenging life — only an 8th grade education, and had married the day before her 15th birthday — but she had a fully developed sense of right and wrong. When the bank and insurance company offered to refund her in full but required a confidentiality agreement, she said “no way — you did wrong to many of us in the neighborhood, and we will make you pay everyone!”
NCLC has been absolutely essential for me and my practice. Consumer law is so complex that it would be impossible for me to do this work without the knowledge, back-up, and resolve NCLC provides. I’m grateful that I was able to successfully nominate NCLC to receive a cy pres distribution in Mrs. Thurman’s case — there’s no better use of unclaimed funds from class settlements than making it possible for NCLC to help lawyers like me help more clients like her.”