USD Law Criminal Justice Education Project Hosting Panel & Documentary, “Gideon’s Army”

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The Criminal Justice Education Project of the University of South Dakota School of Law is hosting a screening of the award-winning documentary Gideon’s Army on Wednesday, March 4 starting at 5 p.m. at the Law School.

A panel of four speakers will discuss the film 5-6 p.m. in Room 101 of the Law School, followed by a showing of the Gideon’s Army documentary from 6-8 p.m. in the Law School Courtroom. Following the screening the panel speakers and guests are invited to a reception in the Commons area of the Law School.

Gideon’s Army follows the personal stories of three young public defenders who are part of a small group of idealistic lawyers in the Deep South challenging the assumptions that drive a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point. Backed by mentor Jonathan “Rap” Rapping, a charismatic leader who heads the Southern Public Defender Training Center (now known as Gideon’s Promise), they struggle against long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads so common that even the most committed often give up in their first year.

An official selection in the prestigious U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Gideon’s Army was awarded the editing prize at the festival. The film premiered on HBO in July 2013.

The panel speakers are Traci Smith, Mary Moriarty, Eric Shulte, and June Hardwick.

Traci Smith is the chief public defender for the Minnehaha County Public Defender's Office in Sioux Falls. She started her career as a deputy public defender in 1999. She became the chief deputy in 2003, and the chief in 2005. With more than 15 years of trial experience and a staff of 32 employees, her office is providing indigent defense in the state’s most populous county.

Mary Moriarty is the training director and the managing attorney of the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office’s Adult Division in Minneapolis, Minn. Moriarty has taught attorneys, judges, investigators, and paralegals in every region of the country. She serves on the faculty of public defender trial schools in Minnesota, Kentucky, Illinois, and Louisiana. She is a core faculty member of Gideon’s Promise. Her interactive curriculum models have been widely copied by other trainers.

Eric Shulte is a bar commissioner and serves on the Law School and Legal Services Committees for the South Dakota Bar Association. Eric also serves as advisory board president for The Banquet. He was elected president-elect of the South Dakota State Bar Association in 2014.

June Hardwick is one of three attorneys featured in the Gideon's Army film. She currently practices in Jackson, Miss., as a criminal defense attorney, and although she is no longer working in a public defender's office, she still dedicates herself to defending the indigent through her pro-bono work.

The Criminal Justice Education Project is a group designed to facilitate, through speakers and lectures, improved understanding on research areas in the psychology-law, criminal justice, and legal fields for future public defenders, prosecutors, and practicing attorneys.

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USD’s School of Law prepares students for leadership in the administration of justice in South Dakota, including in rural areas where the demand is great, and for private practice, public service, business and other law-related endeavors anywhere. Its joint degree program allows students to also earn one of nine master’s degrees within the traditional three-year law curriculum, which includes course tracks in business, commercial, constitutional, criminal, employment, environmental, Indian, real estate and tax law as well as civil litigation and estate planning.

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Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 206 undergraduate and 71 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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