- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Justice Dale Sandstrom, a former Republican state public service commissioner who was elected to the North Dakota Supreme Court in 1992, said Tuesday he will not seek re-election in 2016. His decision means there will be an open seat on the ballot for a high court justice for the first time in 24 years.

Sandstrom, 65, called it a “great honor” to serve the state for more than three decades as a Supreme Court justice and as a public service commissioner.

“It’s hard to believe I’ve been an elected state official for more than a quarter of North Dakota state history,” he said.

Sandstrom said that after he leaves office on Dec. 31, 2016, he plans to write books on state history and be more involved in volunteer activities. He is married to South Central District Judge Gail Hagerty and they have three children.

A Grand Forks native, Sandstrom said he is fifth-generation North Dakotan whose relatives arrived in the region by oxen-drawn covered wagons in the late 1870s. He received a law degree from the University of North Dakota.

Sandstrom was named State Securities Commissioner by former Republican Gov. Allen Olson in 1981. He was appointed to the public service commission in 1983 and was elected in 1984 and 1990 to six-year terms on the three-member panel that oversees a slew of public interests, from auctioneers and pipelines to grain elevators and utilities.

As a chairman of the public service commission, Sandstrom said he was the first person in North Dakota to make a call on a cellphone, during a ceremony in Bismarck in 1987.

In 1992, Sandstrom challenged and defeated Fargo attorney J. Philip Johnson, whom former Democratic Gov. George Sinner had appointed to succeed Justice H.F. “Sparky” Gierke III., who quit to join the Court of Military Appeals in Washington, D.C.

Sandstrom was re-elected to 10-year terms in 1996 and in 2006. During his tenure as a Supreme Court justice, he was the author of about 1,100 opinions. The high court’s computer expert, he created a website for the court in 1996 and also wrote the program that allowed all trial court records in the state to be accessed electronically.

“Justice Sandstrom’s keen intellect, inquiring mind and exemplary work ethic make him a valued member and colleague,” Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle said in a statement. “He has made significant contributions to the jurisprudence of our state.”

The court’s other justices are Carol Ronning Kapsner, Daniel Crothers and Lisa Fair McEvers.

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