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Judge John E. Carland


John E. Carland climbed about as high up the regional ladder as one can go in a legal profession. His career started in Bismarck and he eventually came to sit on the Supreme Court of the Dakota Territory as one of its last associate justices.

He came to Bismarck when he was twenty-two and practiced private law. He soon became Bismarck’s city attorney and kept that position for four years. Carland was also Burleigh County’s attorney for a year. In 1885, he won the election for Bismarck mayor but resigned after one month, to take up his appointment to U.S. district attorney for Dakota Territory. Carland held that role for three years.

On this date in 1888, President Grover Cleveland nominated Carland for associate justice on Dakota’s territorial Supreme Court. As an associate justice, he was also a territorial district judge. By the time of Carland’s appointment, Dakota’s supreme court had more than doubled in size since it was established. They added new justices to accommodate growth.

Change was already in the air—in 1889, Carland was elected to the constitutional convention for North Dakota before statehood that fall. He resigned that spring from the territorial supreme court after thirteen months on the bench.

Afterward, Carland moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and established a law practice there. He even served as a special assistant US attorney in a notable lawsuit over timber cutting. He went on to be appointed as a federal judge in South Dakota in 1896 and, he went to Washingto, DC to be a circuit judge in 1911. Judge John E. Carland died there in 1922. He was sixty-eight.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura




Kingsbury, G.W. (1915). History of Dakota Territory. S.J. Clarke Publishing Company: Chicago, IL

United States Congress. (1901). Journal of the executive proceedings of the senate, 50(1-2). M. Glazier, Inc: Washington, DC.


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