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VERMILLION, S.D. – University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law alumna Stephanie Johnson Pochop ‘91 was recently awarded the Richard S. Arnold Award for Distinguished Service by the Eighth Circuit Bar Association.
Johnson Pochop is the third generation of her family to graduate from the USD Knudson School of Law. She is also the third generation of her family to practice in the Johnson Pochop & Bartling Law Office LLP Law firm, started by her grandfather and father in Gregory, South Dakota. She represents plaintiffs in a wide range of civil actions, with a practice focusing on employment discrimination and other civil-rights enforcement cases.
She commits a minimum of 100 hours of pro bono service per year to clients in the high-need areas of family law and civil rights, exemplifying the tradition of service to the legal profession. She is a member and past president of the State Bar of South Dakota. Johnson Pochop is admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. She serves on the South Dakota District Court’s Federal Practice Committee. Johnson Pochop also actively practices in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Sicangu Oyate Bar, among many other forms of civic engagement and service.
Johnson Pochop is a longtime member of the South Dakota Bar’s Bench and Bar Liaison Committee and serves on its Lawyers Committee for Diversity and Inclusion. Her most fulfilling bar service comes from her chairmanship of the South Dakota Bar’s Lawyers Assistance Committee. She has also been a South Dakota representative for the Infinity Project, a group that works to improve gender equity, diversity and inclusion within the Eighth Circuit. In recognition of her civil jury trial experience and her professionalism, Johnson Pochop has been inducted into the South Dakota chapter of the American Board of Trial Attorneys.
Johnson Pochop is committed to promoting first-generation law students and lawyers. She participates in law school recruitment programs at tribal grade schools, high schools and colleges. She has been awarded the State Bar of South Dakota’s Hagemann Morris Young Lawyer Mentorship Coin. She and her mentor Justice Judith Meierhenry ’66, ’68, ’77 host weekend retreats for women law students, lawyers and judges as a means of encouraging and empowering women to excel in the profession and on the bench.
After 30 years as a lawyer, Johnson Pochop continues to learn ways to be a better lawyer from the friends she has made in the legal profession. She has experienced the fulfillment of witnessing lawyers she has mentored or supported become excellent lawyers, bar leaders and judges.
“I am happy to see Stephanie recognized for her unwavering commitment to service and leadership,” said Knudson School of Law Dean Neil Fulton. “She takes the time to mentor young lawyers, advocate for improvements in the profession, litigate cases and causes she believes in, and does so with obvious joy in the work. She is a great example of the tradition of excellence, service, and leadership of USD lawyers and the best lawyers in the Eighth Circuit.”
The Richard S. Arnold Award for Distinguished Service award was presented at the Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Oct. 29, 2021. The award is named in honor of former Chief Judge Richard S. Arnold who led a distinguished career that included graduating first in his class at Yale University and Harvard Law School. Judge Arnold clerked for Justice William Brennan on the Supreme Court of the United States before entering private practice and serving on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
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.