Rob Nielsen: What was your experience like at USD School of Law?
Marty Jackley: It was a unique and difficult time. Law school isn’t something that’s easy, but having come from engineering school, I think I was well-prepared for it, but I certainly met life-long friends and life-long colleagues and it was a very positive experience. That’s what makes it enjoyable to come back.
RN: How did you make the jump from studying electrical engineering to studying law?
MJ: My father was a small town lawyer in Sturgis and was the state’s attorney for 12 years. I had always planned on eventually going to law school and then coming back home, having a family farm not too far from Sturgis and to have a practice with Dad. But I also had an interest in physics, in lasers and engineering and the S.D. School of Mines was right there. So that interest, combined with athletics helped pay for school for me. Really that engineering background has helped me because engineering is problem solving and law is problem solving. It’s helped me have a different perspective at times on the practice of law which has really helped me both in the jobs I’ve had and representing clients in private practice.
RN: Have you done anything in electrical engineering alongside law?
MJ: I’ve done it in the sense of representation. I was one of the lawyers during the Grizzly Gulch Fire representing the Black Hills Corporation that was heavily based in engineering, but I never practiced engineering. I worked surveying in the summers between engineering school and law school and that helped pay for law school. It’s a little different than engineering, but the same principles.
RN: How effective has the program been so far?
MJ: The Rand Corporation out of California has done some recent studies that have proven conservatively the program reduced the likelihood of re-offending on DUIs by 12 percent and reduced the likelihood of reoffending on domestic violence by 9 percent, so it’s been a good program.
The nice thing is, instead of people going to jail, they haven’t been drinking and haven’t been getting in trouble so they go back home to their families and their jobs, so it saves taxpayers money. It’s completely an offender-paid program. The offender has to pay a couple dollars to blow into the tube or $6 per day to wear the bracelet so the taxpayers don’t have to pay for anything.
RN: How do you think it has affected students at USD?
MJ: About half of the individuals on the program here are tied to the school so I think it’s affected the school in a positive manner. It allows the student to continue on with their studies instead of going to jail and having to lose out on a semester. Overall, it’s been a positive influence on individuals in their lives and being able to finish their studies if they choose.
RN: Has the law gained traction in any other states?
MJ: Yes, primarily in Midwestern states such as Michigan and North Dakota. London, England is looking at it. It’s been looked at in Delaware. Montana has also implemented it and Arkansas has a pilot program going on.
RN: What is the future of capital punishment in South Dakota?
MJ: Really that’s up to the legislature and the governor. I am a proponent of the death penalty for limited and the most egregious crimes. I think the current scheme is appropriate. We only use it sparingly. There are only three individuals that are on death row right now. I see the death penalty probably staying in South Dakota. We are a law-abiding, conservative state and we are doing it very professionally and limited to the right cases.
RN: Do you have plans to run for higher office?
MJ: Certainly, I enjoy being Attorney General. It’s been a very good job. I haven’t made any announcement yet, but certainly I hope the voters like what I’m doing and would keep me in place for perhaps another term. Then as a family we’ll decide where we go from there. I have a desire to remain in public service so long as the voters of South Dakota want me there.
RN: What message do you have for students who may be looking into law school?
MJ: It’s a rigorous program, but it’s well worth it. It’s a small snapshot of your life; it’s three years where if you put forth the effort, you can really go anywhere with the USD law program.
RN: What message do you have for USD students in general?
MJ: I reflect back on my undergrad experiences, and it’s both one of the best times of your life because you’re experiencing a lot more freedom, and one of the most important areas in your life, because how you keep your priorities will help you get the job that you want in the area you want.