If a lawyer wins a rodeo buckle, is the word “bull” always inscribed on it?
Well, not in this case, although the suggestion makes Randy Seiler laugh.
The Fort Pierre attorney was awarded a buckle Friday at the opening of the South Dakota 4-H State Finals Rodeo at the Stanley County Fairgrounds in the Casey Tibbs Arena.
The buckle is ornate, with a couple gems, the 4-H clover and it says “South Dakota 4-H Rodeo – 2018” with “Randy Seiler” along the bottom.
It was given to Seiler for his pro bono legal counsel this year for South Dakota 4-H Rodeo in defending its long practice of having separate boys and girls events, which seemingly suddenly came under fire.
State extension leaders, who are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told local 4-H rodeo supporters that USDA’s attorneys in Washington were saying it had to change because of Title IX laws that 45 years ago ruled women had to have equality in access to and resources for athletics and other extracurricular activities in schools.
Seiler says the problem was USDA appeared to be using a different interpretation of the Title IX laws than the U.S. Department of Education had been using for decades. The DOE allowed for separate mens and womens sports in colleges, for example, as long as there were measures taken to provide basic equality in the number of teams and/or offerings. So, for example, there could be football for men in colleges; while field hockey and softball were sports for women.
But the fairly recent USDA missive appeared to be that 4-H rodeo events no longer could be separated for boys and girls.
Casey Cowan, a longtime local 4-H supporter and adult leader, was one of the 4-H leaders who presented the buckle to Seiler on Friday.
He said that thanks to Seiler’s work, done at no cost to 4-H, USDA honchos told South Dakota extension leaders and 4-H supporters in July that; “it will not take action at this time on the Title IX regulations as has been previously interpreted for South Dakota 4-H Rodeo.”
It’s a huge deal for South Dakota and especially the Pierre and Fort Pierre region, where the 4-H state finals rodeo is held every August, Cowan said.
This year, about 530 youth from across the state competed in the three-day event last weekend, Cowan said. About 1,500 4-H members take part in rodeo events across the state each year, he said..
State 4-H rodeo is a nonprofit and no funding comes in to the 4-H rodeo foundation from state sources and no funds from the local, regional and state 4-H rodeos go to state extension sources, Cowan said.
Seiler said he was surprised to be given the award.
“It was an incredibly nice and sensitive gesture on their part,” he told the Capital Journal. “If there is a group that personifies South Dakota traditions and South Dakota values and the South Dakota way of life, I mean, it’s the folks and families involved in 4-H rodeo with their children. That’s as good as it gets.”
Seiler spent two decades as a federal prosecutor working in the U.S. attorney’s office in the state, including a couple of years as the U.S. attorney. He’s lived in Fort Pierre for years and served a short term on the city council.
Seiler is campaigning now as the Democratic candidate for state attorney general in the November election, including over the weekend at the 4-H state finals in his hometown. .
But Cowan and Seiler both said that had nothing to do with the 4-H issue.
In a written presentation of the buckle, 4-H rodeo leaders said: “Over the last six months, Randy Seiler has offered legal counsel, made phone calls and contacts and recruited resources to assist the South Dakota 4-H Rodeo Boards which has allowed closure to this long-standing issue. Randy asked for absolutely nothing in return – he made himself available, never too busy for an email or phone call because Randy believes in the tradition of South Dakota 4-H Rodeo and the values and lessons it teaches our South Dakota youth.”
In other news on Tuesday about Seiler winning awards, U.S. Attorney Ronald Parsons in Sioux Falls issued a news release announcing that Seiler recently received the Richard S. Arnold award for distinguished service in August at the Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference held in Des Moines.
Arnold was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit from 1980 until his death in 2004.
Recipients of the award are honored “for their professional excellence, leadership in the legal community, significant contributions of volunteer legal services in underserved communities and service as a mentor to less-experienced lawyers,” according to the news release.
Seiler is only the fourth South Dakotan to receive “the coveted award,” according to the news release from Parsons.