3 justices vie to take over top spot on high court

November 7, 2019 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Three North Dakota Supreme Court justices are vying to lead the state’s high court, a position that has not been contested for more than a quarter-century.

Justices Daniel Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers, and Jon Jensen filed to fill the chief justice position by the Wednesday midnight deadline, said Sally Holewa, the state court administrator.

The vacancy was created after Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle, 86, announced in September he will not seek reappointment by his colleagues when his term expires at the end of the year.

VandeWalle said he intends to remain on the court but not as chief justice. He was elected chief justice five times since 1993. Justice Ralph Erickstad held the post for two decades prior to that.

There are five justices on the high court, and Jerod Tufte was the only one who did not express interest in the top position.

Crothers, McEvers and Jensen earned their law degrees at the University of North Dakota.

The new chief justice will be chosen by their colleagues and district court judges on Nov. 25, Holewa said. Ballots were being sent out Thursday, she said.

The chief justice is appointed to a five-year term or until their term expires.

VandeWalle was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1978, by former Gov. Arthur Link, a Democrat. VandeWalle was re-elected to his fourth 10-year term on the state’s high court in 2014. His term will expire in 2024.

The high court’s four other justices each were first appointed by a Republican governor. Jensen was appointed by Gov. Doug Burgum in 2017 to replace Justice Carol Kapsner, who resigned after 18 years.

Jensen must run for a new 10-year term next year.

Crothers was appointed by then-Gov. John Hoeven in 2005 and elected to an unexpired four-year term in 2008 and 10-year term in 2012.

McEvers was appointed to the high court by then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple in 2014. She was elected to an unexpired two-year term in 2016 and re-elected to a 10-year term in 2018.