The announcement of the selection Rapid City attorneys Robert A. Mandel and Craig A. Pfeifle to fill vacancies in the 7th Judicial Circuit spread swiftly Tuesday afternoon and the local legal community greeted the news of the long-await appointments with relief.
“I am extremely pleased to appoint two highly qualified attorneys to serve on the circuit bench,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in a news release. Both men said they expect to assume the bench in January.
Seventh Circuit presiding judge Jeff Davis said he was pleased that his staff will return to a full contingent of seven judges next year.
“I’m ready to welcome them aboard and put them to work,” Davis said. Davis has known both men for several years. Both are good lawyers, he said.
“They bring a variety of experience and talent with them,” he said. “I know they’ll be good judges.”
“I can’t wait until they start,” said Pennington County deputy state’s attorney Tracey Decker.
“Absolutely outstanding choices,” said local attorney Patrick Duffy. “If they represent the next generation of judges here in the 7th Circuit, we are in good shape.”
The seven judge circuit has operated for more a year short one judge. The appointments fill vacancies created by the retirements of A.P. “Pete” Fuller and John “Jack” Delaney. Fuller was suspended over a year ago and retired without returning to the bench. Delaney recently retired.
Attorney Randal Connelly said he is looking forward to having more time in front of judges who are more relaxed because their schedules are not as full.
“I’m exceedingly happy,” Connelly said.
The past year has been difficult for defense attorneys who just want to advocate for their clients, he said.
“With the volume of cases this court has had it is really, really difficult to have justice meted out in a personal fashion,” Connelly said.
Davis has been extremely good at managing the busy circuit while supervising courthouse building projects in Rapid City and Custer and trying to accommodate the needs of defendants and attorneys, Connelly said.
Pfeifle, 51, is a shareholder and managing member of Lynn, Jackson, Shultz and Lebrun. He joined the firm in 1987. He is a well-respected lawyer and litigator, Daugaard said in the news release.
Pfeifle said he is looking forward to the new challenges.
“I’m very excited. I’m honored and humbled by the confidence the governor has placed in me,” Pfeifle said.
Pfeifle has held leadership roles in the American Bar Association, South Dakota Bar Association, Pennington County Bar Association and the South Dakota Defense Lawyers Association.
Pfeifle is a seasoned lawyer who will bring to the bench a level of expertise “that will be amazing,” Duffy said. “It will be amazing to see what he will be able to do in terms of complex litigation, all forms of litigation.”
Mandel, 60, has spent almost 30 years working on complex criminal and civil in the U.S. Attorney’s office, according to the governor. He retires at the end of this week as supervisory assistant U.S. Attorney in Rapid City.
Mandel has prior judicial experience having served as a county judge in Mercer County, N. D., from 1979 to 1982. He was also a tribal judge in Fort Berthold Tribal Court from 1980 to 1982.
Mandel presided over approximately 50 trials as a judge. He prosecuted more than 100 trials.
“I don’t know that there’s ever been a more consummate expert of rules of evidence ever elevated to the bench than Bob Mandel,” Duffy said.
Mandel experiences as judge, and later as a prosecutor, have given him a broad background not only in criminal law but family law.
“I’ve done it all. There’s nothing I haven’t been exposed to over my years in practice,” he said. “The best quality that I bring to this is that I listen.”
A Chicago native, Mandel graduated from Shimer College in Mount Carroll, Ill., and Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C. Mandel and his wife, Kim, have one daughter.
Pfeifle is a Sioux Falls native and graduate of Augustana College and the University of South Dakota School of Law. Prior joining Lynn Jackson, he was a law clerk for South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Robert Morgan. He practiced law for a short time in Kansas City, Mo.
Pfeifle is active in several civic organizations. His wife, Jane, is an attorney at Lynn Jackson. The Pfeifle’s have four children and twin granddaughters.
Contact Andrea Cook at 394-8423 or firstname.lastname@example.org.