ND Supreme Court Justice VandeWalle to retire

North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Gerald VandeWalle has announced he will retire, ending his run as the longest serving justice in the history of the court.

Initially appointed in 1978 by Gov. Arthur Link, altogether Vandewall has served 44 years on North Dakota’s highest court, with 27 of them as its chief justice. Vandewall sent a letter to Gov. Doug Burgum on Nov. 11 announcing his retirement, with his last day set to be Jan. 31, 2023.

In his letter the Noonan native said it was an honor and privilege to serve the people of North Dakota for more than six decades between his stint as attorney general and his time on the court. VandeWalle stated recent health challenges as the primary drivers behind the decision, which have made it difficult for him to continue serving.

“I thank my supreme and district court colleagues, my former law clerks, court staff, and the attorneys I have had the pleasure to work with throughout my career,” VandeWalle said, “I recognize and thank the people of North Dakota for the confidence they demonstrated by electing and re-electing me after my initial appointment. It is great to be a North Dakotan!”

VandeWalle’s announcement inspired a number of releases and statements from state leaders thanking and honoring the justice, with Rep. Kelly Armstrong saying the Rough Rider Award winner “has a record that will never be matched. He is an absolute legend.”

In a news release, Gov. Doug Burgum called Vandewalle, “A towering figure in the legal community and beloved fixture in the halls of the Capitol, he leaves a remarkable and unparalleled legacy of service to which all North Dakotans can aspire.”

Sen. John Hoeven hailed the outgoing justice as a dedicated public servant who worked, “throughout his career to uphold our laws and protect the rights of our state’s people.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer said VandeWalle “has led a remarkable life of public service and dedication to North Dakota. Our great state has benefited from his wisdom and candor as he sought to uphold the law with impartiality in every decision he made.” He said VandeWalle has “great judgement, great demeanor, and a great personality. He is an outstanding citizen.”

The process for determining VandeWalle’s replacement begins as soon as the Judicial Nominating Committee receives notice of a vacancy. The committee will have 60 days to forward a list of nominees to Gov. Burgum, who will then decide to either move forward with one of the nominees, ask for another list, or hold a special election to fill the vacancy.


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