The North Dakota Chief Justice is making history

Local News

Have you ever wondered who’s working hard inside the state capitol? I’m talking about the heavy hitters, those making decisions year-round. One of those people is Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle.

VandeWalle is the longest-serving Supreme Court chief justice in the state’s history and the longest-serving of all the active justices in the United States.

“I like research. I like taking a legal problem, researching it, solving it and writing it. Besides that, I am not talented in any other way. I don’t have mechanical abilities,” said VandeWalle.

He is a judge of the supreme court and has been for 27 years. Some of the things he does are watch over trials and hearings, sets the agenda for the court’s meetings, and he makes administrative decisions.

At 86 years old, VandeWalle has accomplished a lot, but he isn’t planning on retiring anytime soon. He says he still has work to do.

“I am concerned about the bureaucratization of the court system that we are becoming another state agency, another bureaucracy. That bothers me, I want to make sure that doesn’t happen. I want people interested in law to apply for judgeships,” said VandeWalle.

Before he became chief justice, he was a regular boy who grew up in Noonan, North Dakota. He then went to the University of North Dakota and law school. But he never thought he would make it to where he is now.

“I was an accounting major in undergrad school. When I hit the business law courses I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Until that time, I had no idea of going to law school. I didn’t know what a lawyer was I don’t think,” said VandeWalle.

But once there was an opening on the court, a colleague urged him to apply and he did. And he said the rest is history. VandeWalle became a member of the court at 44 years old and was appointed as chief justice at 59 years old. He says he still learns something new every day.

November is when the next chief justice will be elected, and VandeWalle’s name will be in the running once again.

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