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Southeast District judge to retire; position under review

JAMESTOWN -- Southeast District Court Judge Thomas E. Merrick will not seek re-election this year and will retire at the end of his term in December.

JAMESTOWN -- Southeast District Court Judge Thomas E. Merrick will not seek re-election this year and will retire at the end of his term in December.

Merrick said Wednesday that he sent his notice to the North Dakota Supreme Court on Dec. 31 indicating he would not seek re-election. He was appointed by then-Gov. John Hoeven in 2009 to fill the newly-created judgeship, then was elected to the seat in 2012.

“I’m going to turn 66 this summer,” Merrick said as to why he wasn’t seeking re-election.

In his notice to the Supreme Court, Merrick wrote that he was proud to have been a part of the judicial branch of the state government.

“It has been an honor and a blessing to serve the people of North Dakota as a district judge,” he wrote. “I so enjoy the pathos, drama, and unexpected humor that come with being in the courtroom, and take great satisfaction from completing all those unseen tasks that swallow up so much of a judge’s time.”

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With Merrick’s announcement, the state Supreme Court will now determine if Merrick’s judgeship, Southeast District No. 7, will remain in Jamestown.

In a notice on the state Supreme Court’s website dated Monday, the court has to, within 90 days of receiving a notice to not seek re-election, determine whether the office is necessary for effective judicial administration. As Merrick’s notice was filed on Monday, a decision would have to be made by April 4.

The rule in the state Century Code states the Supreme Court may order that:

- The vacancy be filled;

-  The vacant office be transferred to a judicial district where a judge is needed;

- The vacant office be abolished.

The Supreme Court is seeking written consultation from attorneys and judges within the Southeast District jurisdiction on this matter.

The Supreme Court will also receive a report from each county in the Southeast District Court jurisdiction. The report, which will be done by Rodney Olson, Unit 2 court administrator, will include each county’s population, caseload and unusual case types, trends in population and caseload, impacts of the proposed vacancy on travel requirements, age of possible retirement of the remaining judges in the Southeast District Court, age of possible retirements of remaining judges in the Southeast District Court and availability of facilities like law enforcement centers, correctional and court facilities.

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Once the Supreme Court has these reports and all written documentation concerning the vacancy of the Southeast District Court District No. 7 judgeship, the Supreme Court will make a decision and file a written order.

Lee Ann Oliver, election specialist with the North Dakota Secretary of State Office, said there are four other Southeast District Court judgeships up for election in 2016. They are: James Hovey, New Rockford, District No. 4; Daniel D. Narum, LaMoure, District No. 5; Jay Schmitz, Valley City, District No. 6; and Jerod Tufte, Valley City, District  No. 2.

There are seven judgeships in the Southeast District Court.

Oliver said it is still early in the election process and she didn’t know if any of the incumbents planned to seek re-election.

Related Topics: JAMESTOWNELECTION 2016
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