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N.D. Supreme Court Justice Mary Muehlen Maring to step down

BISMARCK -- After more than 17 years on the North Dakota Supreme Court, Justice Mary Muehlen Maring is stepping down.

Maring submitted her letter of resignation Tuesday to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who will have to fill the seat she is leaving Dec. 31.

"It's just time to slow down a little bit," said Maring, 62.

"When I retire I'll be closing in on 18 years and it's been wonderful. I've just enjoyed every minute of it," Maring said. "This is a very difficult decision for me. I've loved the work and the people I've worked with. It has truly been a blessing for me to be able to do this."

Maring was appointed by former Gov. Ed Schafer in 1996 after Justice Beryl Levine's retirement.

North Dakota voters elected Maring in 1996 to carry out the remainder of the term. Maring was re-elected in 1998 and 2008. Supreme Court justices serve 10-year terms.

Maring is a 1975 graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Law and practiced law privately for 20 years before her appointment.

Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle said he was surprised when she told him a couple of weeks ago.

VandeWalle said the dynamics will change once she leaves.

"Sometimes dramatically, sometimes not," he said. "But the results don't change."

He said Maring has shown an "outstanding" work ethic while on the bench.

"She is very thorough in what she is doing and meticulous in her detail; certainly that's something we will miss," he said. "She has a very high-level intensity in her work, and she is very concerned about the quality of her work."

Maring said she is looking forward to more freedom and flexibility.

Maring has asked VandeWalle to consider appointing her as a surrogate to the court, where she would be invited back to fill in during court hearings. She said she also hopes to do more mediation work within the family court system. She plans to go through training and get placed on a state list of mediators.

She also hopes to spend more time at UND's law school and teaching trial work to judges and lawyers.

"I don't plan to sit in my rocking chair," she said. "That would be pretty hard after how busy I have been."

Dalrymple said in a statement through his spokesman, Jeff Zent, that Maring served with "exceptional integrity."

"Throughout her many years on the bench, she demonstrated a heart for public service and an unwavering commitment to justice," he said.

VandeWalle said her early notice should provide plenty of time to fill the vacancy, hoping the position is filled by early 2014.

Dalrymple will appoint a new judge after the state's judicial nominating committee reviews and recommends a candidate to him. The person appointed to the judgeship will serve until the 2016 general election and could choose to run in that election. The person elected would serve the remainder of Maring's term through Dec. 31, 2018.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.