Ron Parsons 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, and appeared at counsel’s table before the United States Supreme Court in one of his cases involving a constitutional challenge to a federal statute.
Ron’s 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 Due Process Clause, the Sixth Amendment, federal Indian law, federal and state criminal law, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), federal jurisdiction, water law, international comity, business and commercial law, and many other federal and state constitutional and statutory questions.
He 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.
Ron has received a variety of recognitions for his legal work, most recently:
• In 2016, Ron was 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.
• In 2016, Ron was presented with the U.S. District of South Dakota Criminal Justice Act Panel Award Outstanding Lawyer for “extraordinary legal work.”
• In 2016, the International Municipal Lawyers Association presented Ron with the IMLA Amicus Service Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
• In 2016, Ron was appointed and sworn in as a Special Deputy State’s Attorney for Minnehaha County, South Dakota.
• In 2015, the Oglala Sioux honored Ron 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.
• In 2014, Ron was appointed by William J. Riley, 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).
• Ron also currently serves 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 2005 edition of The Best Lawyers in America and in every edition since that time. 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.
Ron and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Sioux Falls.
• 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 Ass’n, 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 Ass’n v. Brohl, 135 S.Ct. 1124 (2015).
• 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 (Day County, S.D. 2016).
• 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).
• Assisted in representation of federally recognized Indian Tribe in multiple federal actions involving tax issues and the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act. Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. Gerlach, 162 F.Supp.2d 888 (D.S.D. 2016) and Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. South Dakota, 2011 WL 2551379 (D.S.D. 2011).
• 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. ProBush.com (D.S.D. 2004).
• 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).
University of South Dakota School of Law, Vermillion, South Dakota
University of Minnesota
• Appellate Practice Compendium (American Bar Association) (Author of South Dakota Chapter) (2012)
• Ex Parte Contacts Revisited, 58 S.D. L. Rev. 273 (2013)
• Cattle on a Thousand Hills: Reflections on the Beef Checkoff Litigation, 57 S.D. L. Rev. 427 (2012)
• Appellate Practice in the South Dakota Supreme Court, 56 S.D. L. Rev. 1, (2011)
• Being There: Constructive Denial of Counsel at a Mental Competency Hearing as Structural Error under the Sixth Amendment, 56 S.D. L. Rev. 238 (2011)
• Should the Eighth Circuit Recognize Procedural Misjoinder?, 53 S.D. L. Rev. 52 (2008)
• Pierre Pressure: Legislative Elections, the State Constitution, and the Supreme Court of South Dakota, 50 S.D. L. Rev. 218 (2005)
• The Heart of the Matter: Substantive Due Process in the South Dakota Courts, 47 S.D. L. Rev. 185 (2002)
• Dedication to Chief Judge Roger L. Wollman, 46 S.D. L. Rev. 1 (2001)
• The Wrongful Death of Common Sense, 45 S.D. L. Rev. 283 (2000)
• That Which Governs: An Essay on the Nature of Law and Its Relation to Justice, 43 S.D. L. Rev. 172 (1998)
Ron’s legal scholarship has been cited by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits, as well as several United States District Courts.
In addition, Ron is the author of The Sense of Touch, a collection of short stories named by Kirkus Reviews as one of the “Best Books of 2014” in a starred review. He has done readings and book signings in such far-ranging places as the Brooklyn Book Festival in Park Slope (Bookend Event); South Dakota Festival of Books; Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature in Lansing, Michigan; the legendary Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, California; Magers & Quinn in uptown Minneapolis; and Zandbroz Variety in downtown 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.
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.
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.