- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

FORT PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Family and friends on Saturday remembered Pat Duffy, a well-known South Dakota trial attorney who in the 1990s defended a group of Black Hills paleontologists against the federal government.

Duffy died unexpectedly in his Sioux Falls home on May 9. He was 58. A memorial was held in his hometown of Fort Pierre on Saturday, according to the Rapid City Journal (https://bit.ly/1cGx2Q6 ).

By the time he died, Duffy was a high-profile attorney who had made a name for himself taking on everything from environmental to death penalty and voting rights cases. He was loved by his clients and respected even by those with whom he regularly sparred.

“He proved why it’s more of a profession or a calling. Pat made lots of money practicing law, but that wasn’t his goal,” said Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo. “He cared so deeply about the law, about his community, about making a difference, but he also loved the art that is trial.”

Duffy splashed onto the scene in the early 1990s when he took on the federal government on behalf of six employees of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research.

The government had seized “Sue,” one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils ever found, and after its initial charges didn’t stick had brought more than 150 charges against the paleontologists.

The three-year court battle, chronicled in the 2014 documentary “Dinosaur 13,” ended with acquittals on four of the six employees. Peter Larson and employee Bob Farrar were the only two convicted. Larson would eventually serve less than two years in a federal prison.

“He poured his heart out into that case and defending us,” Larson said. “During the eight-week trial, he probably got a total of eight hours of sleep. Every day he was working, including weekends. Even when we ran out of money, he didn’t care. He just kept working.”

A long-time supporter of Native Americans in South Dakota, Duffy caught some heat with the Oglala Sioux Tribe in recent months for defending Trace O’Connell, a Philip man accused of spilling beer and shouting racial slurs at a group of Native American students.

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council banned Duffy from the Pine Ridge Indian reservation because he took the case, but Duffy was adamant O’Connell was innocent.

Vargo said young attorneys who want to be successful should emulate Duffy’s behind-the-scenes dedication and not just his passion for the profession.

“There are people that are terribly passionate, but if you’re not dedicated to the art form, not dedicated to the craft, you can’t be Pat Duffy. You can’t just care a lot and accomplish a great deal,” Vargo said. “It was because he worked so hard, he was able to accomplish what he cared about. To me that’s ultimately the legacy.”


Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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