Two vie for 10-year term on N.D. Supreme Court
Two opposing candidates for the North Dakota Supreme Court agree on one thing--they're not sure many voters know about the race to fill a 10-year seat on the highest judicial platform in the state.
Two opposing candidates for the North Dakota Supreme Court agree on one thing-they're not sure many voters know about the race to fill a 10-year seat on the highest judicial platform in the state.
"When it's nonpartisan and we don't have parties to help get the message out, it's very difficult for people who are running offices like this to get information to the people," said incumbent Justice Lisa Fair McEvers Wednesday afternoon.
"They don't know much about it, and they don't know about the candidates," candidate Robert Bolinske said Thursday. "It's a big state, it's very expensive and it's hard to get the word out. A lot of people unfortunately don't know much about the courts."
Both McEvers and Bolinske have been campaigning as much as they can according to rules of judicial conduct, laws that forbid them from soliciting funds or running on a political party platform. They've been knocking on doors, marching in parades and, in Bolinske's case, traveling the state with a red-white-and-blue camper.
"I drive it around the state, I sleep in it, out in the field with the coyotes. I go to the truck stop and take a shower for 10 bucks," Bolinske said. "I'm going to take my shotgun and my fishing rod when I get to Devils Lake."
McEvers has served as the North Dakota labor commissioner, a prosecutor and later a district judge in Cass County and she practiced law for a short time with a private practice. Gov. Jack Dalrymple appointed her to the Supreme Court, effective Jan. 1, 2014, where she has been since. Before all of this, McEvers said she was a law student at UND.
"And right out of law school I was a law clerk here at the North Dakota Supreme Court," she added. "So I started out my career as a law clerk and now I am back here. I've kind of come full circle."
Though she acknowledged having aspirations of becoming a judge while in school, McEvers realized in the field there are only few judicial positions ever open in the state of North Dakota.
"I think I've spent my career practicing and improving and taking the next challenge and not doing the same thing over and over," she said.
Bolinske also received an undergraduate degree from UND, but left the state afterward, he said, to graduate from Harvard Law School. Since then he has been an active lawyer for 40 years, working in Minneapolis and Bismarck.
"I've been an attorney for over 40 years. I've got an awfully good idea of what the system is and how it operates," Bolinske said.
This will be his second time on the ballot for the Supreme Court, after losing his first to Justice Jerod Tufte in 2016. Earlier this year, a disciplinary board admonished Bolinske for falsely accusing court justices of withholding information from him in the 2016 race. He has had a longstanding argument against certain justices, which he considers inspiration for his campaign. Bolinske said he's working on suing those justices right now.
"It's one of the issues I'm running on, because if they have in fact covered up their buddies' felony, they're all implicity guilty. And I can't get anyone to take a look at it."
The state Bar Association recently conducted a survey to rate the candidates' professional competence, legal experience, judicial temperament and moral character. A majority of 386 respondents, all state lawyers, voted in favor of McEvers over Bolinske.
"You have to realize that for eight years I've been deciding cases," McEvers said. "And somebody loses every one of those cases. And despite that fact that I have ruled against lawyers many time, those same folks are saying I have a good judicial temperament."