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Gion appointed as Southwest Judicial District Court judge

Longtime Regent native and area attorney James Gion will be the Southwest Judicial District's newest judge. Filling the judgeship left by retired judge Zane Anderson, Gion was appointed Tuesday by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple. Gion said Tuesd...

Gion and Dalrymple
Newly appointed Southwest Judicial District Court Judge James Gion, left, stands with North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple in this undated, submitted photo.

Longtime Regent native and area attorney James Gion will be the Southwest Judicial District’s newest judge.

Filling the judgeship left by retired judge Zane Anderson, Gion was appointed Tuesday by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

Gion said Tuesday that he was excited at the news, but that he had little time to celebrate because he still had court proceedings later on in the day.

“All of a sudden you realize, ‘Damn, I need to work,’” Gion said.

Gion has 32 years of legal experience. He has served as the Hettinger County state’s attorney since 1991 and has had a law office in Regent since 1982. He has been Slope County’s state’s attorney since 2012, and has also been state’s attorney for Bowman and Grant counties. He was also Regent’s city attorney.

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Becoming a judge wasn’t something that immediately came to his mind when he originally heard about the open position.

“I had never really given it much thought,” Gion said.

He said the idea only slowly dawned on him after fellow attorneys in the region began calling him to suggest he would “be a great fit” for the position, eventually leading him to apply.

Gion becomes the second new Southwest District judge appointed this year. Rhonda Ehlis was appointed earlier this year after the state established a fourth judgeship in the district.

Gion said he didn’t know at the moment when exactly he would be sworn in. He said the state asked him how long it would take to close his practice in Regent, to which he gave the tentative date of Jan. 1 next year.

“It’s going to take a lot of work,” he said.

One of Gion’s obligations before the practice closes is that he helps all his clients find new practices. He said he felt a bond with them.

“I’m going to miss those clients,” he said.

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Gion is a lifelong resident of Hettinger County, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota and his law degree from the Dakota State’s Attorneys’ Association. He is also a past president of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperative Attorneys.

He guessed the whole process to be like giving one’s daughter away at her wedding, though he admitted he does not have a daughter.

Gion said he has spoken to the commissioners of both Hettinger and Slope counties before about the possibility of being selected and having to leave his state’s attorney positions there. Gion added that other attorneys have expressed interest in the positions, and are willing to step in and help out if necessary.

Tony Weiler, the executive director of the State Bar Association of North Dakota, said state’s attorney positions are normally filled by appointment through a county’s commission when it becomes vacant. After that, the attorney usually has to be run in general elections.

Gion said it will be a shift going from attorney to arbitrator. He will now have to go from arguing one side of a case and not necessarily focusing on fairness to adopting a just state of judgement.

“I also realized that I’m going to have to learn a lot,” he said, adding he doesn’t know all that the position entails, despite working with judges throughout his career.

Gion said he believes he will bring an even and fair temperament to the judge’s seat.

“I think I have a patient nature,” he said. “I don’t get upset easily.”

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He hopes to effect a degree a fairness without tending to jump to conclusions.

Gion acknowledged that this is likely what every new judge says going into the position.

“What they do on the bench will be the proof,” he said.

Dickinson attorney Glen Bruhschwein and Devils Lake attorney Michael Hurly were also finalists for the position.

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