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SD judges receive prestigious USD Women in Law honors

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The University of South Dakota Women in Law presented its 2014 Attorney of the Year award to Sixth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Trandahl and Seventh Circuit Magistrate Judge Shawn Pahlke. The co-recipients of the award were both graduates of the University of South Dakota School of Law’s Class of 1985. They were also founding members of Women in Law.

Trandahl received her undergraduate degree from Augustana College in 1982 and her J.D. from USD in 1985. She practiced law in Winner, S.D., until she was appointed to the Circuit Court bench by Gov. Walter Dale Miller in 1994. She is the Senior Circuit Court Judge in the Sixth Circuit. She is active in many civic organizations in her community and led the effort to establish drug courts in South Dakota.

Pahlke received her undergraduate degree from Black Hills State University in 1981 and her J.D. from USD in 1985. She served as a prosecutor for the Pennington County State’s Attorney before moving into the Pennington County Public Defender’s Office where she was the first female director of the Public Defender’s Office. She began her work as a Magistrate Judge for the Seventh Circuit in 1995, only the second woman to serve in this capacity. Pahlke serves on the Unified Judicial System Training Committee and also writes ethics opinions for the Unified Judicial System. She has played an important role in the implementation of drug courts in western South Dakota and serves as one of two drug court judges for the Northern Hills Drug Court. Pahlke is the first drug court judge to serve the Seventh Circuit and is among the first in South Dakota.

The award was presented on June 19 by current USD Women in Law President Kelsey Weber at the South Dakota Women in Law social held at Face it Together in Sioux Falls, S.D. The award is given based on nominations from members of the legal community, and voted on by members of USD Women in Law.

Download a photo of USD Women in Law advisor and law professor Chris Hutton, Pahlke, former SD Supreme Court Justice Judith Meierhenry, SD Supreme Court Justice Lori Wilbur, Trandahl and Weber.


USD’s Knudson 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.


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 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson 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 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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Hanna DeLange
USD News