USD School of Law welcomes two new faculty members

University of South Dakota School of Law welcomes two new faculty members, Wendy N. Hess and Thomas E. Simmons, to begin teaching this fall as assistant professors.

“I could not be more pleased with the hiring of Professors Hess and Simmons,” stated Dean Thomas Earl Geu. “Each brings unique, but balanced practice and teaching experience that suits their positions.”

Hess was a visiting assistant professor at USD Law during the just-completed 2012-2013 academic year. She directed the Fundamental Legal Skills and Legal Writing Program and taught a course on client counseling. She will continue her work in those capacities as a full-time member of the faculty starting in the fall.

Prior to coming to USD, Hess coordinated the Critical Legal Skills program at another law school where she taught academic legal skills, mastering legal skills, interviewing and counseling. Her law practice experience includes directing the Prison Reform Project at the Public Justice Center, a non-profit law office in Baltimore, MD. She also worked on educational access for children in foster care and enforcement of freedom of information laws. She has served as the Francis Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow where she worked on poverty law and civil rights appellate cases in state and federal courts.

Hess is admitted to the State Bars of Maryland and Washington, D.C. She received a B.A. degree in psychology and in government and politics at the University of Maryland, and a J.D. degree at the University of Denver College of Law, where she was a Chancellor’s Scholar.

Simmons was most recently a partner with the Rapid City Law firm of Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, LLP, where he worked as a trusts and estates lawyer, becoming a partner in 2006.  

His fall law courses include trusts and wills and estate and trust administration. His first employment after becoming a member of the South Dakota Bar was that of a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Andrew W. Bogue, senior federal district judge, Western District of South Dakota (1998-2000) in Rapid City. During his clerkship, Simmons was a part-time instructor of constitutional history at the paralegal studies program with National American University, also in Rapid City (1998-1999).

Simmons founded the Elder Law Committee of the South Dakota Bar and serves as its chair. He serves on the Executive Board of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Section of the South Dakota Bar (and was twice elected chair). He is a member of the board of directors of the Alzheimer’s Association-South Dakota and the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles. He serves on the Board of Editors of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) Journal. His work has included representing individual and corporate fiduciaries; litigation of contested estates and guardianships; sophisticated elder law planning and advocacy; nonprofit and charitable law; business and ranch/farm succession planning; and, asset-protection planning.  Prior to his legal career, Simmons was a public school teacher.

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