AuthorDamgaard, Natalie
PositionIncludes 6 testimonials

The Board of Editors of the South Dakota Law Review is pleased to dedicate Volume 66 to Professor Emeritus Jonathan Van Patten.

Jon Van Patten was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1949. He attended UCLA for both his undergraduate degree and his law degree. After teaching law in Southern California for six years, he made the life-changing move to the University of South Dakota School of Law, where he taught and wrote for thirty-eight and a half years. After a brief attempt at retirement, he is currently enjoying the practice of law with the Appellate Division of the South Dakota Attorney General's Office.

Professor VP's career was shaped by many wonderful mentors, among them especially Carroll Hinderlie who taught him how to read texts as if the truth mattered; Professors A.J. Slavin and George Fletcher of UCLA exposed him to the disciplines of critical thinking and writing; Robert Willard, a Southern California trial lawyer, taught him countless lessons in lawyering; Bankruptcy Judge Peder Ecker enabled him to love the practice of law; and Dean and Professor Mike Driscoll became his most important mentor on just about everything. It should be noted that none of these mentors could possibly be described as conservative and the same would be true for the great majority of his colleagues. Yet, VP learned much from those who thought differently. And then there were the amazing, talented, interesting students. VP received more than he gave. As a result, he grew up in the classroom. He also grew up as a lawyer. And he grew up as a writer, through advising the USD Moot Court program and conducting the writing retreats. He owes the South Dakota Law Review a special debt for giving him the freedom throughout his career to publish articles, whether they be Constitutional Law articles, legacy pieces on writing and storytelling, or his series on famous trials. His own "Inns of Court" program through cooking and conversation with students and faculty became a source of great joy as well.

VP participates as a part-time sous chef and yard boy at Nonnarke Farm Bed & Breakfast, a joint venture with his dear wife, Diane, in Nemo, South Dakota. Diane has been a rock of support that has allowed him to flourish. VP is also the proud parent of Katy, a pathologist at North Memorial Hospital in Minneapolis, Christa, a lab scientist at a medical testing company in Stillwater, MN, and Emily, a missionary in Papua New Guinea. Diane and VP together have fifteen grandchildren. VP's influence at the Law School was exceeded at times by his darling companion, Bianca, the Law School mascot.

In South Dakota, professional paths often intersect. Professor VP would like to note that he has appeared before this year's co-honoree many times, some even with successful outcomes. Two of his favorite cases were authored by Chief Justice Gilbertson--Veeder v. Kennedy, 1999 SD 23, 589 NW.2d 610 and Mendenhall v. Swanson, 2017 SD 2, 889 N.W.2d 416. He thanks the South Dakota Supreme Court and its beloved Chief for their devotion to the cause of justice.


As Professor Jon Van Patten would say, "a housekeeping matter" to start this dedication. It is my honor to be asked to write a dedication to my friend, VP, for the South Dakota Law Review.

VP is a contradictory and complex character. He grew up working in his parents' paint factory in Los Angeles, CA. Early on, his attire went from a painter's expendable white to wearing a Jackson Pollock by the end of the workday. He later started a career in academia wearing a suit and tie and ended it in his characteristic Hawaiian shirts.

VP is a modern-day renaissance man. If he finds an area of the law or life interesting, he will immerse himself in that area and make it his own. Whether it is marathon running, cooking at home or for the annual Hog Roast, running a Bed and Breakfast in Nemo, livestock predator control, wine, or writing.

VP loves stories about the human spirit and overcoming adversity. While he knew he could never run like Prefontaine, who VP watched run while at UCLA, VP found enough inspiration to run a sub-3-hour marathon. His hips paid the price for it later in life, but you will never hear VP complain or express any regrets. Justice and overcoming adversity is a common theme of VP's life and scholarship, which is put on full display in his article, The Trial and Incarceration of Andy Dufresne.

He is known by most of us as a teacher, but by those of us that know him well, as a voracious learner. We know VP loves a good theme, but if you were looking for one in VP's bookshelves you would not find it. His shelves include White & Summers, Wright & Miller, Collier, Bryan Garner, Stephen Hunter, Bobby Flay, Roy Yamaguchi, Myron Mixon, and a bible on California wine.

VP and I share a love for good dogs, good wine, good food and good movies. As our advisor for Moot Court, VP encouraged us in our legal writing and advocacy skills, but he also helped us grow to conduct ourselves as well-rounded professionals rather than law students. VP taught me a ton about classic cooking, and some of my favorite recipes I use today are ones he taught me. His love of movies can be gleaned from the subject of Torts papers, like 12 ANGRY MEN or THE VERDICT, and law review articles involving The Shawshank Redemption. His love of dogs is evident from his faithful sidekick, Bianca, accompanying him to school.

VP has now retired and has left the law school devoid of his loud and bright shirts and his quiet but bright personality. He once again has evolved from law professor to appellate lawyer. However, I am not convinced VP is done teaching. Just ask him sometime about secured transactions, torts, constitutional law, writing, running, sports, music, cooking, wine, family, friends or any other subject in which he has experience. I am even less convinced that he is done learning, but I think the most profound thing he taught us is that we can all teach and learn--if we are willing to work and listen.

Of course, my favorite evolution when it comes to VP is the evolution...

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