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Ronald A. Parsons Jr.

Ronald Parsons Appellate Lawyer Sioux Falls

Ron Parsons is the former United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota. He now heads the firm’s strongly developed Appellate Department and manages a broad range of civil litigation matters in federal and state courts.  He has argued or handled more than one hundred appeals, primarily in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and South Dakota Supreme Court. During his career, two of the cases in which he appeared as counsel of record were heard by the United States Supreme Court.

Ron accepts cases at the trial and appellate levels, representing both plaintiffs and defendants, and frequently serves as local counsel for corporations and other clients in federal and state court.  A list of representative cases is provided below.

His appellate and summary judgment arguments have included cases involving the separation of powers, private property rights, religious freedom, the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment, the Due Process Clause, the Commerce Clause, federal Indian law, federal and state criminal law, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), federal jurisdiction, business and commercial law, contract law, insurance law, administrative law, trust and estate litigation, taxation, water law, international comity and many other federal and state constitutional and statutory questions. 

Ron served as the 42nd United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota following his unanimous confirmation by the United States Senate.  As U.S. Attorney, Ron was the chief federal law enforcement officer for a district comprising the entire State of South Dakota, including nine Indian Reservations.  The district serves almost 900,000 residents with 32 Assistant U.S. Attorneys and more than 60 employees located in three offices in Sioux Falls, Pierre, and Rapid City. During his term, Ron served on the Attorney General Advisory Committee’s Terrorism and National Security, Native American Issues, and Elder Justice Subcommittees.

Ron has received a variety of recognitions for his legal work, including:

  • Elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, the preeminent national association recognizing distinguished appellate advocacy.  Academy membership is limited to 500 appellate lawyers in the United States.
  • Presented with the U.S. District of South Dakota Criminal Justice Act Panel Award Outstanding Lawyer for “extraordinary legal work.” 
  • In both 2016 and 2017, presented with the IMLA Amicus Service Award by the International Municipal Lawyers Association at ceremonies in Washington, D.C.
  • Previously appointed and sworn in as a Special Deputy State’s Attorney for Minnehaha County, South Dakota.
  • Honored with a Star Quilt for his legal work on behalf of the religious freedom of the Lakota People in Native American Council of Tribes v. Weber.
  • Appointed by Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to serve as South Dakota’s representative on the Eighth Circuit Federal Advisory Committee, established by Congress pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2077(b).
  • Served by appointment on the Federal Practice Committee for the District of South Dakota and on the Eighth Circuit Bar Association’s Board of Directors.

Ron is rated “AV - Preeminent,” the highest possible rating, by Martindale-Hubbell.  He was selected for inclusion by his peers in The Best Lawyers in America. He has been recognized for his appellate work in Chambers USA's America's Leading Lawyers for Business.  Benchmark Litigation named him a “Litigation Star” in South Dakota.  And he has been honored as a Great Plains Super Lawyer and in Super Lawyers, Corporate Counsel Edition.

After graduating first in his law school class, Ron served as a law clerk for the Hon. Roger L. Wollman, Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.  He is a frequent guest lecturer at his alma mater, the University of South Dakota School of Law. His legal scholarship has been cited by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits, as well as several United States District Courts.

Ron and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Sioux Falls with their two children.


  • As United States Attorney, personally presented appellate arguments in twelve cases on behalf of the Department of Justice before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
  • As United States Attorney, secured consent decree to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10301, to ensure American Indian citizens in South Dakota an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice. United States v. Chamberlain School Dist., 2020 WL 6866809 (D.S.D. June 18, 2020).
  • As United States Attorney, oversaw prosecution and conviction of former Indian Health Service pediatrician Stanley Patrick Weber for abuse of Native American children, resulting imposition of five consecutive life sentences, plus an additional 540 months, to be served in federal prison. United States v. Weber, 987 F.3d 789 (8th Cir. 2021).

  • Retained by South Dakota Legislature to represent the Legislative Branch in the South Dakota Supreme Court regarding advisory opinion sought by South Dakota Governor under Article V, Section 5 of the South Dakota Constitution concerning the plain meaning and proper scope of the Contracts Clause in Article III, Section 12 of the South Dakota Constitution.   In re Request of Governor Kristi Noem, No. 30488 (S.D. 2023).

  • Represented major hospital system in third-party bad faith action against its insurer in United States District Court in Sioux Falls.  Successfully authored briefs in opposition to motion to dismiss  and motion for summary judgment, resulting in confidential settlement.  Sacred Heart Health Services et al. v. MMIC Ins. et al. (D.S.D. May 31, 2023)

  • Retained by United States Department of Justice to represent members of United States Marshals Service (USMS) in separation of powers dispute involving the Executive and Judicial Branches of the United States government.  Successfully briefed and argued motion to dismiss on behalf of clients securing dismissal of the case in United States District Court.  United States v. Kilgallon et al., 572 F.Supp.3d 713 (D.S.D. 2021).

  • Served as co-counsel with the South Dakota Attorney General in representing the State of South Dakota in both federal and state litigation seeking declaratory injunction that internet sellers must comply with laws requiring them to collect and remit taxes for selling merchandise in the State. State v. Wayfair, 901 N.W.2d 754 (S.D. 2017); State v. Wayfair, Inc., 229 F.Supp.3d 1026 (D.S.D. 2017). The case eventually was heard by the United States Supreme Court, resulting in a landmark ruling in South Dakota’s favor that an out-of-state seller’s physical presence in a state is not necessary under the Dormant Commerce Clause to require the seller to collect and remit its sales tax. South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., 138 S. Ct. 2080 (2018), overruling Quill v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992).
  • Represented group of South Dakota and Montana cattle ranchers in constitutional challenge to federal statute assessing mandatory fee on every cow sold in the United States.  Prevailed at the United States District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for Eighth Circuit and assisted in briefing and appeared at counsel’s table before United States Supreme Court. Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Assn., 544 U.S. 550 (2005).
  • Authored Amicus Curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, and other national governmental associations involving issues of federal jurisdiction and the Dormant Commerce Clause.  Direct Marketing Assn. v. Brohl, 135 S. Ct. 1124 (2015).
  • Served as local counsel for ABC News and American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. in state and federal courts defending action alleging that news reporting amounted to disparagement of beef products. Beef Products, Inc. v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., (Union County, S.D. 2005); Beef Products, Inc. v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., 949 F.Supp.2d 936 (D.S.D. 2013).
  • Represented nationwide class of small business owners in a federal class action against national hospitality corporation based on franchise law, resulting in multi-million-dollar settlement approved by the United States District Court.  Bird Hotel Corporation v. Super 8 Motels, Inc., 2010 WL 572741 (D.S.D. 2010).
  • Argued federal appeal successfully enforcing federal religious freedom rights of Native American inmates at South Dakota State Penitentiary to participate in traditional Lakota religious ceremonies involving tobacco.  Native American Council of Tribes v. Weber, 750 F.3d 742 (8th Cir. 2014).
  • Represented group of small farmers and landowners in declaratory judgment action to enforce their constitutional private property rights to exclude general public from entering their private flooded farmland for purposes of hunting, fishing, and setting up ice fishing shacks during the winter.  Duerre v. Hepler, 892 N.W.2d 209 (S.D. 2017).
  • Represented BNSF Railway in a state court dispute with the State of South Dakota over the ownership of the Core System of railroad lines, ultimately resulting in a negotiated settlement in which BNSF purchased and assumed ownership of the Core System.  BNSF Railway v. State of South Dakota, (Hughes County, S.D. 2005).
  • Argued before South Dakota Supreme Court on behalf of students in small and rural school districts challenging constitutionality of school funding system, resulting in decision recognizing that all children are guaranteed a free, adequate and quality public education under the South Dakota Constitution.  Davis v. State, 804 N.W.2d 618 (S.D. 2011) and Olson v. Guindon, 771 N.W.2d 318 (S.D. 2009).
  • Defended website on First Amendment grounds against defamation lawsuit brought in federal court by actress Jane Fonda and two others, ultimately resulting in settlement of one dollar.  Abourezk et al. v., (D.S.D. 2004).
  • Represented Memphis-based memorabilia collector in dispute with National Music Museum over ownership of a celebrated Martin D-35 guitar once owned by Elvis Presley. National Music Museum v. Johnson, 2017 WL 2399013 (D.S.D. June 2, 2017).
  • In a pro bono case, represented private homeowner in successfully arguing to the South Dakota Supreme Court that the administrative appeals process enacted by the City of Sioux Falls violated the procedural due process rights of its citizens.  Daily v. City of Sioux Falls, 802 N.W.2d 905 (S.D. 2011).
  • Represented wrongfully convicted man sentenced to 25 years in prison and successfully argued to the South Dakota Supreme Court that the man was “actually innocent,” resulting in the vacating of his conviction and his release from prison.  This was the first South Dakota Supreme Court decision to recognize “actual innocence” as an independent basis for habeas relief under state law.  Engesser v. Young, 856 N.W.2d 471 (S.D. 2014).
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Ronald Parsons Appellate Lawyer Sioux Falls

It is great to work with the attorneys at Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah. They always provide excellent advice and service that is second to none.

Mike Miller | former NBA player

The lawyers at Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah are consistently ranked as the top business lawyers in the state. Our business can always count on them to aggressively fight for our rights and provide straight-forward advice on complex issues.

Mark McNeary | Primrose Retirement Communities, LLC

Lawyers from Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah regularly participate in legal education by judging intramural student skills competitions; helping prepare our nationally competitive litigation skills teams; serving or leading the South Dakota State Bar's Law School Committee; and, from time to time , providing guest lecturers. The Law School is grateful for the generous participation of lawyers like those from Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah.

Tom Geu | former Dean, USD School of Law