North Dakota Supreme Court issues opinion in Burgum vs. Jaeger case


The North Dakota Supreme Court issued an opinion earlier today in the case Burgum v. Jaeger, which dealt specifically with regard to District 8, where North Dakota Republican David Andahl died on October 5, prior to the November general election, where he sought one of two seats representing District 8 in the North Dakota House of Representatives.

Election day results showed Andahl was one of two elected. 

The day after the election, Governor Doug Burgum announced his intention to appoint an individual to fill the office Andahl presumably would have filled, which he later did do.

"We declare a vacancy in office will exist on December 1, 2020, and the Governor does not have statutory or constitutional authority to make an appointment to fill the vacancy in this case," the justices wrote in their opinion. "He has not established a clear legal right to performance of the acts he seeks. Therefore, a writ of mandamus is not warranted. We deny the requested relief."

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem had issued an opinion on October 13, in which he opined a vacancy would exist on December 1 as the result of Andahl's tragic death.

“The Court’s decision today affirmed my earlier Opinion. This entire exercise was a  waste of taxpayer dollars and time, all of which could have been avoided had the  Governor came across the hall to receive legal advice from the person who was elected by the citizens of North Dakota to provide legal advice to state officials,”  Stenehjem said in a statement.

By virtue of the ruling, the court cited N.D.C.C. § 16.1-13-10 as being the provisions that apply to fill the vacancy. 

The ourt also rejected Kathrin Volochenko's argument that she, as the third place finisher, was entitled to the office.