Guest Post by Frank Pommersheim on the Retirement of Judge Sherman Marshall


Sherman Marshall, Chief Judge of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court, recently retired after more than 35 years as the heart and soul of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court system. Judge Marshall was born and raised on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. He is a fluent Lakota speaker and deeply steeped in Lakota tradition and custom. Sherman received his Associate of Arts degree from Sinte Gleska University and also was the first recipient of a Bachelor of Selected Studies from Sinte Gleska University. He is a 1984 graduate of the University of South Dakota School of Law and a long time member the South Dakota Bar Association. Upon graduation from USD Law, Sherman was admitted to practice and returned home to the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. After serving as an administrator at Sinte Gleska University for several years, he joined the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court as the Chief Judge, a position he has held since 1986. It is likely that Judge Marshall is one of longest serving judges on any tribal court in Indian Country.

It is difficult to fully understand and comprehend how much Sherman was able to accomplish during his long tenure on the bench. Early in his judicial career, Judge Marshall decided that it was incumbent upon him and his staff to visit all 20 tribal communities on the Reservation to describe the judicial system to community members and equally important, to receive input (including criticism) from community members. Over time, these efforts did much to enhance and increase community respect for the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court system. Judge Marshall was also instrumental in helping to establish the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Bar Examination, as a necessary prerequisite for practice in the tribal courts of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Rosebud is the only tribe in South Dakota and one of the few anywhere in Indian country that prepares and administers its own Bar Examination. Closely related to the implementation of its own Bar Examination, Sherman was a key figure in establishing Sicangu Oyate Tribal Bar Association, one of the very few functioning tribal bar associations that exists in Indian Country. The Sicangu Oyate Tribal Bar Association, which includes both law trained and non-law trained tribal advocates has served to help create and identify a community of practitioners who are committed to practicing in tribal court with integrity and a commitment to fairness and due process.

Judge Marshall is well known for conducting his courtroom with respect for all who enter whether native or non-native, whether pro se or represented by counsel, whether a humble individual, large corporate entity, or the Tribe itself. No one walks away feeling they were disrespected or didn’t have a chance to be heard. This includes parties or witnesses who might feel more comfortable speaking or testifying in Lakota with Judge Marshall translating.

Judge Marshall’s respect and generosity extended to visitors as well, including the students in my Indian law class over a 25 year period in which Judge Marshall warmly received students, patiently answered their questions, and went so far as to have his staff prepare a traditional meal including fry bread and wojapi to eat and share in the courtroom. My students were often stunned by a generosity they had done nothing to earn. And it is fair to say, I think, it changed many student attitudes about what is possible and what occurs in tribal courts. Judge Marshall was not trying to impress or to change anyone. He simply was a Lakota person deeply committed to the traditional values that are part of who he is.

Without fanfare or ever calling attention to himself, Sherman also served for 20 years on the Oglala Sioux Tribe Supreme Court and as a long time trial judge for the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe.

Judge Marshall is also deeply committed to his family, which includes his wife Marilyn Bearshield Marshall and their adult children William and James. Sherman also served his country in Vietnam.

With admiration and gratitude,
Frank Pommersheim, Emeritus Professor of Law
Associate Justice, Rosebud Sioux Supreme Court