Gov. Doug Burgum today announced the appointment of Judge Douglas Bahr to the North Dakota Supreme Court, effective Feb. 1.
Bahr’s appointment fills the vacancy created by the upcoming Jan. 31 retirement of longtime Supreme Court Justice Gerald VandeWalle, who has served for 44 years on the Supreme Court, including 27 years as chief justice.
Bahr has served as a state district court judge since Burgum appointed him to fill a vacancy in the South Central Judicial District in September 2018. Bahr was elected by voters in 2020 and re-elected in 2022. His previous legal experience spanned 27 years of litigation practice, including more than 25 years in state government. In the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office, he was an assistant attorney general from 1991 to 1998 and director of the Civil Litigation Division from 1999 to 2016, during which time he served as solicitor general, the chief civil litigator for the State of North Dakota. Bahr appeared at the North Dakota Supreme Court more than 80 times, either through brief or oral argument, and 18 times at the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. He joined the Crowley Fleck law firm as special counsel in December 2016.
“Judge Bahr will make an excellent addition to the North Dakota Supreme Court with his broad legal background in the public and private sectors and his extensive experience at both the state and federal levels,” Burgum said. “His analytical skills, compassion, high integrity and character, sense of fundamental fairness and deep understanding of the law will serve our state’s highest court well.”
Bahr earned his law degree in 1990 from the University of South Dakota School of Law in Vermillion and a bachelor’s degree in family science in 1987 from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He current chairs the North Dakota Courts’ Personnel Policy Board and is a member of the judicial Joint Procedure Committee. He also is a former president of the State Bar Association of North Dakota and its ethics committee, and a former bar association president for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
In addition to his work as an attorney, Bahr taught business law and government courses as an adjunct faculty member at Bismarck State College from 2008 to 2016. He and his wife, Laura, have six children.
Burgum expressed his deepest gratitude for VandeWalle’s 44 years of service to the court and 64 total years of service to state government.
VandeWalle’s current 10-year term expires in 2024. Because an appointment to the Supreme Court must continue for at least two years under Article VI of the North Dakota Constitution, Bahr will serve until the 2026 general election and may run for the remaining eight years of the 10-year term that begins Jan. 1, 2025.