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Angel Runnels


I grew up in Aberdeen, South Dakota. I was blessed with a large extended family, many of whom still live there. While growing up, I was outspoken, headstrong and rebellious. I credit those years, the mistakes I made, and the guidance I was given to my eventual passion for defense work. Aberdeen was a great town to grow up in. If you haven't visited, I highly encourage it, especially if you have kids. Wiley Park and particularly Storybook Land are amazing!

I met my husband, Tom, when we were teenagers. We both worked at Burger King in Aberdeen. We have been together for 26 years. We have three adult sons.

My husband is a year older than I am and he began college first at South Dakota State University in Brookings. I worked at the Land O' Lakes cheese factory in Volga to support us and our oldest son. I learned a lot at the factory about physical and mental endurance and working with a team. That job was a dream come true because I was able to provide for my family at a time when we were young parents and my husband was focused on working toward his degree. Later, I reduced my hours to part-time and completed my freshman year at SDSU. After my husband graduated, we moved back home to Aberdeen where I continued my education at Northern State University. I worked summers at a local floral nursery and landscaping business throughout my college years in Aberdeen. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice. While in school, I tutored students in many of the school's criminal justice classes. I was also active in organizations on campus that volunteered in the community and competed at a national level in mediation and mock trial. During these years, my husband and I had our second and third sons.

After graduating from NSU, we moved to Beresford, South Dakota and my husband commuted to Sioux Falls for work. I commuted to Vermillion to attend Law School at the University of South Dakota. After graduating from law school in 2008, I was lucky to be hired at my dream job, the Minnehaha County Public Defender's Office. I loved practicing criminal law and was passionate about devoting myself to providing the indigent of the community with effective defense. Those years gave me a solid foundation of experience in virtually every area of criminal defense. I eventually focused my practice in representing juveniles. I became active in juvenile justice issues both locally, statewide, and nationally. Additionally, I was appointed by the Governor and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to serve on various local and state juvenile justice workgroups. Finally, I have given presentations on juvenile justice topics locally, at the state level, and nationally.

Eventually, I decided that while criminal defense would always be my passion, I was interested in other areas of law. I left the public defender's office and joined Jeff, Melissa, Kara, and Teri here at the firm where I am a partner. I now practice in multiple areas of the law, in many counties and in federal court. I find that the same focus on advocacy that fueled me in criminal court also extends to fighting for my clients in family law and civil litigation. I know I am very lucky to have a career in which I am happy and fulfilled. Additionally, I love this firm family. My coworkers share my same drive, and we work together to pursue our shared ambition to provide our clients with strong guidance, zealous advocacy, and intelligent counsel.

Practice Areas

  • Criminal Defense
  • Family Law
  • Juvenile Defense


  • University of South Dakota School of Law, Vermillion, South Dakota
    • J.D.
  • Northern State University, Aberdeen, South Dakota
    • B.A.
    • Honors: magna cum laude

Pro-Bono Activities

  • Midwest Juvenile Defender Center, Advisory Board, Representing South Dakota

Past Positions

  • Minnehaha County Public Defender’s Office, 2008 to 2016

Professional Associations

  • South Dakota Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, 2010 to Present

Current Employment Position

  • Attorney and Partner

Bar Admissions

  • South Dakota, 2008
  • U.S. District Court District of South Dakota, 2016