ND’s longest-serving Supreme Court justice announces retirement

Published: Nov. 19, 2022 at 10:14 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota’s longest-serving Supreme Court Justice has announced his retirement.

Virtuous, exceptional, illustrious, kind, remarkable, outstanding, distinguished, legendary. All adjectives used by North Dakota’s top elected officials to describe Supreme Court Justice Gerald VandeWalle, who has served the state of North Dakota in some capacity for 64 years. Here’s why he’s so highly regarded.

Justice Gerald VandeWalle has towered over the North Dakota justice system since he was sworn in in 1978. From the very beginning of his tenure, he promised blind justice.

”To the people of North Dakota, I pledge to do my very best, I am well aware, as my predecessor, Justice Vogel, has said, ‘judging is not easy,” said VandeWalle in 1978.

Former Attorney General and district judge Robert Wefald worked with VandeWalle for many years.

”He’s always been level-headed, always been rational, always been thoughtful, very understanding. Always been meticulous in his work, very careful,” said Robert Wefald, former district judge and Attorney General.

He grew up on a dairy farm in Noonan and graduated from the University of North Dakota Law School in 1958. He gained respect as an assistant attorney general and then was appointed to the Supreme Court by Governor Art Link.

”You’ve got an individual that’s full of humility, full of curiosity, full of care for our state, and that’s just made immeasurable impacts,” said Gov. Doug Burgum, R-ND.

At his swearing-in ceremony, he thanked then-Attorney General Allan Olson for his support in achieving a position on the court, but from the moment he was sworn in, he made it known that he would not allow politics to influence his decisions.

”I hasten to add, however, that in any case the Attorney General or the staff are before the court, they should be prepared to prove their points or suffer the consequences,” said VandeWalle in 1978.

That judicial temperament is something he was known for throughout his career.

”I tried to keep the court out of the politics as much as I could, and I think we did and were successful in that,” said VandeWalle.

As word of his retirement spread, North Dakota’s Congressional delegation and state officials and colleagues all acknowledged his contributions to the court and praised his leadership.

Justice VandeWalle will serve until January 31st. Governor Doug Burgum will appoint a new justice who will serve until 2026.