Skip to main content

USD Law Professor Publishes Book on Experiences as Tribal Appellate Justice

Image Frank Pommersheim Frank Pommersheim, author of "Tribal Justice: 25 Years as a Tribal Appellate Justice"

VERMILLION, S.D. -- University of South Dakota School of Law professor Frank Pommersheim has published a new book entitled Tribal Justice: 25 Years as a Tribal Appellate Justice. The work provides an in-depth review and survey of tribal appellate court jurisprudence, including enrollment and disenrollment, civil rights, elections and political participation, criminal law and procedure, rights of juveniles, tribal constitutions, and tradition and custom.

The book focuses on the procedure and substance of tribal court appellate decision making as revealed in the text of actual court opinions.

''Frank Pommersheim is the modern apotheosis of Ksa, Nanaboozhoo, Quetzalcotl, Athena, John Marshall, and the Buddha -- all legends of judicial wisdom. Tribal Justice is a powerful culmination of his career work so far and gives us all hope for another quarter century of his judgment, experience, and calm thoughtfulness,” said Matthew Fletcher, professor of law at Michigan State University College of Law in his review of the book.

Pommersheim was born in New York City but has lived in South Dakota for more than 35 years. Prior to joining the USD faculty in 1984, he lived and worked on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation for 10 years. He currently serves on a number of tribal appellate courts throughout Indian country, including chief justice for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court of Appeals and the Rosebud Sioux Supreme Court. Pommersheim writes extensively in the field of American Indian law. He is the author of Braid of Feathers (American Indian Law and Contemporary Tribal Life) and numerous scholarly articles. Pommersheim is a contributor to the 2005 edition of Felix Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law. Pommersheim's Broken Landscape: Indians, Indian Tribes, and the Constitution was published in 2009 by Oxford University Press and has recently been released in paperback. He also has received the University of South Dakota Belbas-Larson Award for Excellence in Teaching, the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center Reconciliation Award, and the John Wesley Jackson Award as the Outstanding Professor of Law. Pommersheim is also a poet. His book prior to this most recent selection was East of the River: Poems Ancient and New. A chapbook entitled Small is Beautiful: The Buddha Correspondence was published last spring. In addition, Pommersheim is an amateur but avid bird watcher who is well-acquainted with the works of Bob Dylan and has played a lot of hoops all over this land.


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 84 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.


Hanna DeLange
USD News