Retired U.S. District Judge Bruce M. Van Sickle died April 21, 2007, in Bismarck. He was 90.
Services will be held at 11:00 am April 26 at the United Church of Christ, Bismarck, with Rev. Jim Moos officiating. There will be no visitation as cremation has taken place.
Van Sickle was born on February 13, 1917, in Minot, ND, the son of Guy and Hilda Van Sickle. He earned his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Minnesota. After graduating from law school, Van Sickle served in the Marine Corps from 1941-1946. Van Sickle married Dorothy Hermann of Olympia, WA, on May 26, 1943.
Van Sickle returned to Minot in 1947 and was an attorney in private practice there until his judicial appointment in 1971. While living in Minot, Van Sickle served as legal counsel to the Minot School Board for more than 20 years and served two terms in the North Dakota legislature.
President Richard Nixon appointed Van Sickle to the federal bench in 1971. Van Sickle served as a federal judge for the District of North Dakota until 1985, when he took senior status. He retired from the judiciary February 1, 2002.
As a judge, Van Sickle was successor to Judge George S. Register, who served as federal district judge in Bismarck from 1955-1971.
Van Sickle may be best known for his work on two controversial matters, the Association of Retarded Citizens ("ARC") cases and Coleman v. Block.
In the ARC cases, North Dakota's system of caring for developmentally disabled people was alleged to be overcrowded, understaffed, and underfunded. Van Sickle agreed and issued a series of orders that required the state to institute reforms. In the end, North Dakota's system of caring for the developmentally disabled was transformed by Van Sickle's orders in the ARC cases.
In Coleman, a group of farmers challenged the Farmers Home Administration's methods of dealing with debtors who were having difficulties paying government farm loans. Van Sickle issued an injunction that required the FmHA to institute protections for debtors facing foreclosure and liquidation. Ultimately, Congress incorporated Van Sickle's protections into federal law.
Van Sickle was a member of the Elks Lodge, Toastmasters, Masonic Order, Shriners, Republican Party, Geriatric Trail Club, and the United Church of Christ.
Van Sickle is survived by his wife, Dorothy; his daughter, Susan (Michael) Cooper of Ellensburg, WA; his sons, John (Val) of Corvallis, OR, Craig (Bonnie) of Minot, ND, and David of Roseville, MN; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, Neil, Harry, Ross, and Earl and his sister, Grace Treat.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Paul and Gerry.