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Judge noted for UND logo ruling to retire

The Billings County Pioneer of Medora, North Dakota

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Of the Lake Metigoshe Mirror As Northeast Judicial District Court Judge Michael Sturdevant prepares for his retirement in about six weeks, he's getting ready for another docket of important proceedings.

More specifically, those will be the activities of his seven grandchildren, who all live in North Dakota and are very active in various activities.

"We (Sturdevant and his wife Priscilla) are going to be those grandparents who who will never miss a school program," he joked. "We always planned to retire here (Lake Metigoshe) as my family has had a place at Lake Metigoshe for more than 30 years. We absolutely love it here and we really don't have any plans on leaving. Things have gone well and it's been a very good run. Some days just seem to crawl by, but the years seem to have just flown by. We're not going anywhere, but we might get out of here for a couple of weeks or so at a time once in awhile."

The long-time Minot attorney, remembers his early days on the bench in Bottineau, which coincidentally began on April 1, 2006. He said that when he applied for the position as a replacement for the retiring Lester Ketterling, it was a big deal that he did not live in Bottineau. He said that he rented an apartment in Bottineau a month before he started work as the district judge and he believes to this day that his ties to Lake Metigoshe played a major factor in him being appointed to the local judgeship.

"I don't know if starting work on April Fool's Day was a factor or a sign or anything, it's just the day I started," he said. "When they were looking to fill the position, 1 think they were looking for people with local ties. I don't think that's really much of a factor any more, but at that time, it was kind of a big deal. I rented an apartment 30 days before I started to establish a residence in Bottineau and get to be recognized as a member of the community. My wife stayed in Minot for the first year as my youngest son was a senior in high school and we didn't want to have to make him change schools for his senior year. Like I said before, we had always planned to retire here and things just worked out."

He said that his most famous case is when the Spirit Lake Nation sued the North Dakota Board of Higher Education in regard to changing the Fighting Sioux nickname. As current history has now unfolded, the North Dakota Board of Higher Education was allowed to begin proceedings to retire the nickname, thanks to Sturdevant's ruling in the case. The university is currently in the process of acquiring a new nickname for UND athletic teams and a statewide vote is pending in the very near future.

"That was probably the most public interest in any case I have ever ruled," Sturdevant said. "It was a hard case for me as I attended UND and many members of my family and a lot of friends attended UND. The good news is that my family still talks to me at holidays, but I wasn't sure for a while. I did what I had to do, but I didn't enjoy it. Let's just say that. After the ruling. I heard that I was seen as a legal genius in Fargo and an idiot in Grand Forks. It not only had interest in North Dakota, but it was amazing that it also rang through the college hockey community. I was at a judicial conference on the East Coast and heard people talking about it. They didn't know I was the North Dakota judge who made the ruling and I never told them."

Many of the other cases he has ruled during his tenure on the bench have not had the statewide interest as the UND case. However, he said that he has presided over many other cases and has developed a preference for jury trials. He said that he doesn't mind hearing civil cases, but he does not like family cases. He says that he doesn't mind custody-cases because the rulings generally come quickly and the interest of the child is the most important factor.

"I really enjoy the jury trials as the attorneys are usually a little more experienced and I can just sit back and let them work and let things play out," he said. "Civil trials have a little more interesting case matter, so I don't mind those, either. My least favorite cases are family feuds. Family members seem to fight for the sake of fighting and they are by far the worst ones to work on. Custody cases are easy and the ones I don't lose sleep over."

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Original Publication Date: July 30, 2015

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