North Dakota Supreme Court

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North Dakota Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   5
Founded:   1861
Chief:  $148,000
Associates:  $144,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   10 years
Active justices

Gerald VandeWalle  •  Dale Sandstrom  •  Carol Ronning Kapsner  •  Daniel Crothers  •  Lisa Fair McEvers  •  

Seal of North Dakota.png

The North Dakota Supreme Court is the court of last resort for the state of North Dakota.


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle1978-2024Gov. Arthur A. Link
Justice Dale Sandstrom1992-2016Elected
Justice Carol Ronning Kapsner1998-2021Gov. Ed Schafer
Justice Daniel Crothers2005-2022Gov. John Hoeven
Justice Lisa Fair McEvers2014-2016Gov. Jack Dalrymple

Chief justice

Gerald VandeWalle is the chief justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court. Justice VandeWalle was appointed to the court in August 1978 by Democratic Governor Arthur Link. VandeWalle was selected chief justice by his colleagues. The chief justice is elected every five years by vote of the supreme court justices and the district court justices. In the case of a vacancy, the governor may appoint the replacement to serve for two years prior to the general election.[1]


The supreme court shall be the highest court of the state. It shall have appellate jurisdiction, and shall also have original jurisdiction with authority to issue, hear, and determine such original and remedial writs as may be necessary to properly exercise its jurisdiction.[2]

—North Dakota Constitution[3]

The North Dakota Supreme Court is the court of last resort for the state of North Dakota and has the highest appellate jurisdiction to hear cases from North Dakota's lower courts.[4]

Judicial selection

The five justices on the court are elected to 10-year terms in nonpartisan elections.[1]

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of North Dakota was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, North Dakota received a score of 1.00. Based on the justices selected, North Dakota was the 2nd most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[5]


Supreme court justices and district court judges shall be citizens of the United States and residents of this state, shall be learned in the law, and shall possess any additional qualifications prescribed by law.[2]

—North Dakota Constitution[6]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 459 390
2013 400 387
2012 442 477
2011 364 362
2010 402 399
2009 367 359
2008 342 363
2007 366 331



Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. North Dakota earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[9]

History of the court

North Dakota state capitol in Bismarck, which houses the North Dakota Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the Dakota Territory was created in the territorial capital of Yankton in 1861. The court consisted of three justices, Chief Justice Philemon Bliss and Associate Justices George Williston and Joseph Williams. Many of the early justices of the territory were appointed by Presidents Lincoln or Grant. In 1879, a fourth justice was added to the court. The size of the court increased two more times: once in 1884 to six justices, and again in 1888 to eight. The state's constitution was adopted in 1889. By 1930, a constitutional amendment increased the length of terms for justices to 10 years.[1]

See also

External links



Unopposed  Judge Gerald VandeWalle (VandeWalle seat)


CandidateIncumbencyOfficePrimary VoteElection Vote
CrothersDaniel Crothers   ApprovedAYes99.15%   ApprovedA


See also: 2010 State Supreme Court elections

Carol Ronning Kapsner stood for retention and was retained.


See also: State Supreme Court elections, 2008

Mary Muehlen Maring and Daniel Crothers ran uncontested and were elected.

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