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Justice Paul Sand


It was on this date in 1911 that Crosby was incorporated. Like many other fledgling towns, Crosby was originally in a different location, about one mile west of where it now stands. After the railroads came through, the townsite was moved to a spot about midway between the original location and a hamlet named Imperial. Within a few years, Imperial ceased to exist, and Crosby became the seat of Divide County.

Today is also marks the birthday of Paul M. Sand, who was born in Balta in 1914. In 1941, he graduated from UND with a law degree and passed the bar exam shortly after. Before the year was out, he was also inducted into the Army for World War II. A year later, he graduated from Officer Candidate School as a Second Lieutenant.

Sand was first assigned to division headquarters and then to a corps headquarters in the European Theatre. The Army took advantage of Sand’s legal training by assigning him duties in various positions of the military justice system. Among the of the positions he held were trial judge advocate, defense counsel, member of general court, law member of general court, and president of special court. He was also assistant staff judge advocate of the United States Berlin District.

When the European war ended, Sand was assigned to the War Crimes Commission. He had attended the London Law School Society during the war, and in August 1945, he was put in charge of the U.S. investigative teams that were attached to the British Army of the Rhine.

Sand left military service as a lieutenant colonel in 1947, and after some time for R&R, he began a private practice in Rugby. Two years later, he became ND Assistant Attorney General. Justice Gerald Vendewalle joined the staff in 1958 and later said, “(Paul) was my mentor the first year I worked in the attorney general’s office. I think he took a particular pride in his knowledge and interpretation of the North Dakota Constitution. He was a student of North Dakota history.”

Sand ran against Allen Olson for Attorney General at the Republican Convention in 1963. Olson, who later became governor, won the nomination, and the subsequent election. He chose Sand to be his chief Assistant Attorney General, saying, “(Paul) had the background experience that was perfect for the position.”

Sand also ran for a seat for the ND Supreme Court in 1962 and ’64, but he wasn’t to reach that particular goal until 1974, when he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Justice Harvey Knudsen. After that term was fulfilled in 1978, Sand was elected to another 10 years on the Supreme Court. At about this time, he suffered a mild heart attack. It wasn’t detected until several days later during a routine checkup, and he was able to keep working.

Justice Sand’s term in the Supreme Court wasn’t without controversy. In 1983, he rendered a 21-page opinion that permitted preliminary hearings in criminal cases to be closed. That decision has since been the subject of many interpretations.

Justice Sand suffered another heart attack in December 1984; he died in office, just one month from celebrating his tenth year on the Bench. Following the news of Sand’s death, Chief Justice Ralph Erickstad said, “He leaves a legacy in the many fine decisions that he has authored for the court, which lawyers and legal scholars will be studying for years to come.”

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm