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Nodak to Nuremberg


A verdict overseen by North Dakota Supreme Court Judge James Morris was released on this date in 1948, in Nuremberg, Germany. The trial was Tribunal 6, one of the twelve Nuremberg Trials in which Nazi war criminals were held accountable foratrocities committed during the course of World War II. Morris himself was selected by President Harry Truman to sit on a panel of four judges responsible for overseeing the tribunal.

Born in Bordulac, North Dakota, James Morris grew up in a sod house on his parents’ homestead claim. He became an attorney, and also filled a variety of local and state offices before his election to the State Supreme Court in 1934. He was re-elected in 1944, and again in 1955, serving a total of thirty years on the Supreme Court, and seven years as Chief Justice.

During Morris’s second term, in 1947, he was asked by President Truman to serve at Nuremberg. The case involved the prosecution of twenty-four owners and employees of the I. G. Farben Company. It had become clear that military and government personnel were not the only ones responsible for the horrors of the war, with industrialist giants like the Farben Company also to blame.

Farben’s management was accused of producing chemicals used in the war and at concentration camps, and also of using slave labor from the concentration camps in their factories. During the course of the trial, it was found that “the average length of time [that] workers survived in [the company’s] rubber plant was three months.” Morris sat through all one hundred and fifty-two days of the trial. His wife, Amelia, accompanied him to Germany, and he was granted a leave of absence from the North Dakota Supreme Court to hear the case. Finally, on July 29th, 1948, a verdict was issued, charging thirteen of the defendants with plundering and slavery.

Morris’s opinion to the court suggested that “…a new system be put in place for such trials, which became known as the Nuremberg Principles.” He returned to continue his term on the Supreme Court, retiring in 1964.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job