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State's judicial regions fighting over a vacant judgeship

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – The North Dakota Supreme Court will decide whether an open judgeship will stay in Minot -- or will be moved to another part of the state.The opening was created when Judge Glenn Dill died. And both Jamestown and Fargo are angling for the judgeship to be moved.

The fight comes because under current state law, the number of district judges is limited to 42. In 1991, the Legislature passed the Court Unification Act, which made county judges district judges, and which set 42 as the number of judgeships. At the time, county and district judges numbered 53.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was in the state Senate. He sponsored the court unification bill.

"Now remember, this was 1991, and so we were guessing at the number of judges that we thought would be appropriate ten years later, in 2001. I made it clear at the time, in every committee that I appeared before, that we were not etching that number of judges in stone, and that other options might exist, as time went along, to either increase or even decrease, as history dictated."

Stenehjem says he thinks if the state Supreme Court would come back to the Legislature and say more judges are needed, lawmakers would take a serious look at increasing that number. But he says that doesn't help Minot right now -- and he says Minot will have to demonstrate that the judgeship is necessary for what's called efficient judicial administration.