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Longest-serving North Dakota Supreme Court justice tests positive for COVID-19

Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle
North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Gerald VandeWalle was awarded the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award in 2015. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK — North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Gerald VandeWalle has tested positive for COVID-19 and is receiving medical attention, Chief Justice Jon Jensen confirmed to Forum News Service on Thursday, Aug. 6.

VandeWalle, 86, is the oldest member of the court and the longest-serving justice in North Dakota history, having been appointed in 1978. Until Jensen took over the court's top spot at the beginning of the year, VandeWalle had served as chief justice since 1993.

Jensen would not offer additional details of VandeWalle's condition, but said he had permission to share the diagnosis. Jensen added that none of the other four justices had tested positive for COVID-19.

Most court proceedings have gone on remotely in recent weeks with justices appearing via video livestream. Jensen said the few court employees working from the state Capitol have been following recommended social distancing guidelines.

As the elder statesman of the court, VandeWalle has gained legendary status among his peers in North Dakota public life and the legal realm. A portrait of the justice hangs in the Rough Rider Award Hall of Fame on the first floor of the state Capitol building.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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