VERMILLION, S.D. -- The John T. Vucurevich Foundation announced Friday a grant award in the amount of $70,000 to The University of South Dakota Foundation to create the “Judge Lawrence Piersol Scholarship” at The University of South Dakota because of Judge Piersol’s long standing friendship and guidance to John Vucurevich and his foundation. The scholarship will be awarded to two outstanding USD Law School students, each receiving $7,000 per semester. Special consideration for the scholarship will be given to members of a federally recognized Indian tribe or students who are willing to perform one year of public service.
“The Law School is honored to be able to give a scholarship in the name of Judge Piersol,” said Barry R. Vickrey, School of Law dean and professor. “His career as an exceptional trial lawyer and then as a leader among the federal judiciary provides a model of excellence for our current and future students. The purposes for which the scholarship will be used — to support the legal education of American Indian students and to encourage practice in the public sector — are two of the foremost objectives of the Law School.”
Judge Piersol received a B.A. degree in 1962 and a J.D. degree in 1965, summa cum laude, from The University of South Dakota. While in law school he was editor-in-chief of the South Dakota Law Review. He spent three years as an Army Captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps. From 1968 to 1993, he was a trial lawyer with the law firm of Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith in Sioux Falls. In 1993, he was appointed by President Clinton with the consent of the Senate as a United States District Court judge for the District of South Dakota, serving as chief judge from 1999 to 2006. Judge Piersol has been actively involved in a wide variety of service roles, receiving honors along the way. He was presented the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association 2006 Fred J. Nichol Award for Outstanding Jurist.
Judge Piersol is a past president of the Federal Judges Association. He also served as an advocate for the American Board of Trial Advocates (inactive) and has been a member of the American Bar Association and Federal Bar Association. He has served as Chair of the Native American Ad Hoc Advisory Group of the United States Sentencing Commission, and has been a member of the Eighth Circuit Judicial Council Committee on Gender Fairness Implementation Committee. He has also served on the Eighth Circuit Judicial Council, including as chair of the Tribal Court Committee and has chaired the Court Security Committee. Judge Piersol has frequently spoken and testified on Native American and judicial independence issues.
On the state level, he served as Minority Whip (1971-1972) and Majority Leader (1973-1974) of the South Dakota House of Representatives. He also served as a chair in the Reorganization of the Executive Branch of South Dakota.