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Sandstrom to retire from ND Supreme Court after 24 years

BISMARCK - North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom, whose technological know-how brought a new level of public accessibility to the high court, announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election next year. Sandstrom will have served 24 year...

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North Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Gearld VandeWalle (right) and Justice Dale Sandstrom (left) listen to oral arguemennts Tuesday Oct. 30, 2012 in the Baker Courtroom at the Unicersity of North Dakota Law School. Grand Forks Herald file photo by John Stennes.

 

BISMARCK – North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom, whose technological know-how brought a new level of public accessibility to the high court, announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election next year.

Sandstrom will have served 24 years on the Supreme Court and more than 33 years in statewide elected office when he retires at the end of 2016.

The 65-year-old plans to write a couple of books about North Dakota’s history and be more involved in volunteer activities.

“I’ll miss the work, but there are other things I want to be able to do, as well, so that’s what led me to the decision,” he said.

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His retirement means there will be an open seat on the ballot for Supreme Court justice for the first time in 24 years.

Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle, who was working in the attorney general’s office in July 1975 when Sandstrom landed a job there straight out of law school and has now served 23 years with him on the Supreme Court, said Sandstrom is known for his dislike of legal jargon and his thoughtful, well-researched opinions.

“He’s very alert. He’s very, very perceptive. He has a passion for plain writing,” he said.

A fifth-generation North Dakotan, Sandstrom said two of his sets of great-great grandparents came to the state in covered wagons pulled by oxen, homesteading in the 1870s in what is now Grand Forks County.

Sandstrom was born in Grand Forks and moved with his family to Fargo at age 5. He was a member of the first graduating class at Fargo South High School in 1968.

He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from North Dakota State University in 1972 and graduated from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1975.

Sandstrom worked as an assistant attorney general for six years, heading the consumer fraud and antitrust division and administering the start of legalized charitable gambling in North Dakota. When his boss, Allen Olson, was elected governor in 1980, Sandstrom, also a Republican, helped with the legal transition and was named state securities commissioner.

Sandstrom was appointed to fill a vacancy on the state Public Service Commission in May 1983 and was elected to six-year terms in 1984 and 1990.

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He holds the distinction of making the first cellular telephone call in North Dakota – at least ceremoniously – in 1987, calling from a bag phone in a car in downtown Bismarck.

“My kids are impressed by this,” he quipped.

Sandstrom won a four-year unexpired term on the Supreme Court in 1992 and was re-elected to 10-year terms in 1996 and 2006.

Using his mostly self-taught computer skills, he created the Supreme Court’s first website in 1996, and nearly 4,000 people receive his daily email updates from the court. The website provides access to Supreme Court briefs and opinions, as well as live audio webcasts of oral arguments, which are archived on the site.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it, we would not be as far ahead as we are now if not for Justice Sandstrom,” VandeWalle said.

Sandstrom has chaired the Court Technology Committee, in addition to the North Dakota Judicial Conference and the North Dakota Judges Association. In 2011, the state became the first in the nation to have its entire trial court system on an electronic record system.

“North Dakota has really led the nation in court technology,” Sandstrom said.

His wife, Bismarck-based District Court Judge Gail Hagerty, intends to serve out the remaining five years of her term, he said. They have three adult children.

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As a member of the El Zagal Shrine Dusters, Sandstrom can be seen driving his 1929 Ford Model A Roadster in parades in Bismarck. He said he tells people it was a late-model car when the current state Capitol was built the early 1930s – a building his grandfather Frank Sandstrom worked on as finishing foreman during the Great Depression, he noted.

 

2228427+North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom.jpg
North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom

2228427+North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom.jpg
North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom

Related Topics: CRIMENORTH DAKOTA
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