IV. Preparing for the Twenty-first Century
. . .
D. A Century of Advances
The first woman to serve on the Court, Beryl J. Levine of Fargo, was appointed by Governor George Sinner in 1985. Since she retired in 1996, Governor Schafer appointed two more women to fill vacancies on the Court, Justice Mary Muehlen Maring from Fargo and Justice Carol Ronning Kapsner from Bismarck, both of who were active private practitioners.(563)
Those two, along with Justice William Neumann, a former practitioner and trial judge from Bottineau; Justice Dale Sandstrom, a former assistant attorney general and public official from Bismarck; and Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle,(564) a former assistant attorney general, make up the current Supreme Court. They are the beneficiaries of over a century of efforts to advance and improve the judicial branch of government and, as stewards of the system's future, they are reasonably well prepared to carry a sound system forward into the twenty-first century.
563. The Court has taken a number of steps to squelch gender bias in the judicial system. By Administrative Order 7, see Admin. Order 7, reprinted in 72 N.D. L. Rev.  (1996), on March 5, 1997, the Court created a Gender Fairness Implementation Committee, chaired by Justice Maring, to evaluate, implement, and monitor the work of a prior Commission on Gender Fairness in Courts, chaired by Justice Levine, whose final report was published in 72 N.D. L. Rev.  (1996). Acting on recommendations of the Gender Fairness Committee, the Court has referred a number of specific recommendations to other appropriate committees to implement. Chief Justice VandeWalle, State of the Judiciary Message to Annual Meeting of State Bar Association of North Dakota 12 (June 9-11, 1999). The Joint Committee on Attorney Standards, acting on one of these referrals, has recommended amending Rule 8.4 of the North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct, to specify it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to "manifest, by words or conduct in connection with a judicial or administrative proceeding, bias or prejudice, including bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, or sexual orientation, against parties, witnesses, counsel or others, except when those words or conduct are legitimate advocacy when race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, or sexual orientation is an issue in the proceedings. . . ." Increased civility in the profession is a valid administrative goal, while leaving unimpaired the constitutional freedoms of speech and association. The proposed amendments to Rule 8.4 were sent back to the committee by the Court in October 1999, and the outcome is not yet known.
564. Chief Justice VandeWalle has also become a national leader. On August 5, 1999, he was unanimously named president-elect of the National Conference of Chief Justices at the Conference's 50th anniversary meeting held at Williamsburg, Virginia. He became president of the Conference of Chief Justices in August 2000.