New ND Chief Justice Receives Gavel

BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Jon Jensen cleared the final hurdle Monday to become the newest chief justice in 27 years.

It's not easy filling a seat on the Court. In September, Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle announced he would step down as Chief Justice; but not from the Supreme Court. On Monday, the two Chiefs exchanged gavels and chairs.

"In my mind, the past 27 years, it's been Chief Justice VandeWalle, and I don't think anyone was looking ahead to when it wouldn't be Chief Justice VandeWalle," Chief Justice Jensen said.

Jensen, the associate justices, and Gov. Doug Burgum, the seventh governor during VandeWalle's tenure, spoke highly of the Chief Emeritus as he made his way to the end of the bench.

"By all of the Legislative Branch and Executive Branch and all others whom you've served so well with, I just want to again today, on behalf of all the gratitude that we have,” Burgum said.

Jensen was elevated to the spot following a December run-off election against his fellow associate justices; the elephant in the room.

"The voters had a selection of candidates; they had their options. At the end of the process however, all of us must accept the result of that selection. And that includes us former candidates,” said Crothers.

All of the justices, however, voiced their support for the new Chief Justice as they begin the 2020 docket.

North Dakota law says the Chief Justice must be re-elected every five years, but their term ends when their normal term would've ended. Jensen's term ends in 2020. Meaning, he only holds his new gavel for one year until he runs again.