All District Court Judges

James D. Hovey

District Court Judge

Appointed: 2010 - Present

B.A., Russian and Soviet Studies, University of North Dakota, 1987; M.A., Russian Language and Literature, University of Arizona, 1991; J.D., with distinction, University of North Dakota School of Law, 1996. Engaged in private law practice in Grand Forks, 1996-2010. City Attorney for Larimore, N.D., 2001-2010. Instructor, University of North Dakota Center for Legal Studies, 2002. Taught Basic Russian as a graduate student and completed 260 hours of language instruction at Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia. Appointed district judge 2010 by Governor John Hoeven. Elected in 2014, 2016.

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Maurice R. Hunke

District Court Judge

Appointed: 1981 - 2000

Born in 1939, Richardton, ND. Graduate: Taylor High School; BA, Dickinson State College; JD, University of North Dakota School of law. Two years active duty, U. S. Army. Admitted to Bar 1963. Law clerk to the Honorable Charles J. Vogel, U. S. Judge of Court of Appeals; private practice in Dickinson; Dickinson City Attorney 1973-81. Appointed District Judge 1981. Elected 1982, 1988, 1994. Member Association of Trial Lawyers of America, American Judicature Society. Married: Diana Lamprecht; two daughters: Carolyn and Linda. Left office as District Judge December 31, 2000. Surrogate Judge March 1, 2001-December 31, 2001. Judge Hunke died May 21, 2016.

Michael P. Hurly

District Court Judge

Appointed: 2017 - Present

Bachelor's degree in philosophy from North Dakota State University, 2000. Law degree from the University of North Dakota School of Law, 2005. Served as a law clerk for the 16th Montana Judicial District, 2005-2006. Private legal practice in Devils Lake, 2007-2017. Appointed District Judge of the Northeast Judicial District effective Aug. 1, 2017, by Gov. Doug Burgum.

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William H. Hutchinson

District Court Judge

Appointed: 1929 - 1956

Judge Hutchinson was born in Alexandria, Minnesota, July 24, 1882. He came to North Dakota in 1886 and attended the rural school of LaMoure County. He attended Valley City State Teachers College in 1903, and graduated with a law degree from the University of North Dakota in 1907. He served as LaMoure City Attorney, and State's Attorney of LaMoure County. He was appointed Judge of the Third Judicial District, by Governor George F. Schafer in 1929, he served in that capacity until his retirement in 1956. Judge Hutchinson died on May 3, 1969.

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Roy A. Ilvedson

District Court Judge

Elected: 1948 - 1980

Judge Ilvedson was born in Minot, North Dakota, February 17, 1910. Graduated from the Minot High School, attended Minot State University and studied law with Attorney Ed Sinkler for four years. He then passed the North Dakota bar exam in 1934 and opened his own law office. He later served as State's Attorney of Ward County and was also a partner in the Ilvedson, Pringle & Herigstad Law Firm. He also served as president of the North Dakota Bar Association. He served as Judge of the Fifth Judicial District from 1948 until 1952. In 1962 he was elected Judge of the Fifth Judicial District, term to begin January 1963. With the reorganization of the district court system in 1979, he became Judge of the Northwest Judicial District, he served in that capacity until his retirement in 1980. Judge Ilvedson died January 29, 1993.

John C. Irby

District Court Judge

Appointed: 2002 - Present

Born July 1, 1956, Warroad, Minn. Graduate: Falls Senior High School, International Falls, Minn.; Moorhead State University, B.A.; University of Wyoming, J.D. Practiced law with Burgum and Irby, P.C., Casselton, N.D., 1982-2002. Legal intern for Legal Services for Southeastern Wyoming, Inc., 1980. Served as Casselton city prosecutor and assistant city attorney 1982-2002. Appointed District Judge in 2002 by Governor John Hoeven. Elected 2006, 2012. Married: Janice Irby. Two children: Joseph and Lindsey.

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William A. Jacobsen

District Court Judge

Elected: 1943 - 1952

Judge Jacobsen was born in Burlington Township, Ward County, North Dakota, August 31, 1901. He graduated from Minot High School in 1920 and the University of North Dakota in 1924. He received his law degree from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1926, and moved to Watford City to open his law practice. He served as McKenzie County State's Attorney during the 1930's and 1940's, he was also City Attorney and Magistrate of Watford City. Served as Judge of the Fifth Judicial District, from 1943 to 1948, before joining the United States Department of State as a War Crimes Judge in Germany. He held that position until 1952 when he returned to Watford City. Judge Jacobsen died on December 31, 1990.

Paul W. Jacobson

District Court Judge

Appointed: 2013 - Present

Born September 1948 in Valley City. Graduated Fargo North H.S., 1966. North Dakota State University, B.A., History and Economics, 1970. University of Minnesota Law School, J.D., 1973. Served in U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps 1974-1979. Private legal practice, Williston, 1979-1993. Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, 1993-1999. Disciplinary Counsel, 1999-2013. Appointed District Judge in 2013, elected 2016.

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Lawrence E. Jahnke

District Court Judge

Appointed: 1989 - 2015

Born in 1942, Minneapolis, MN. Undergrad: UND - June 1964 (B.S.B.A.). J.D. degree University of North Dakota 1966. Active duty as Judge Advocate, United States Air Force 1966-86. Private practice 1986-89. Appointed District Judge May 1989 by Governor George A. Sinner. Elected District Judge in 1990, 1996, 2002, 2008, and 2014. Admitted to North Dakota, Montana, and Federal District Court for North Dakota, United States Supreme Court, and United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Married. Wife, Shirley. Three children. Retired as district judge in March 2015.

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Clifford E. Jansonius

District Court Judge

Elected: 1963 - 1974

Judge Jansonius was born in Bowdon, North Dakota, February 2, 1909. He attended the University of North Dakota for a year, then attended the Gregg School of Court Reporters in Chicago, Illinois. He studied law under his father and was admitted to the Bar in 1934. When he returned from the United States Navy in 1943, he started a law practice in Bismarck, North Dakota with Alvin C. Strutz. In 1951 he served in the legislature as a Representative. He became Judge of the Fourth Judicial District in 1963, served in that capacity until his retirement in 1974. Judge Jansonius died in Munich, Germany, October 26, 1980.

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Fred Jansonius

District Court Judge

Appointed: 1923 - 1947

Judge Jansonius was born in Ackley, Iowa, on December 28, 1877. He attended Nora Springs Seminary, Highland Park College and University of North Dakota, was admitted to the North Dakota Bar June, 1904. Practiced law at Bowdon, North Dakota from 1904 to January 1, 1911. Elected County Judge of Wells County in 1910 and served until January 1, 1923. On January 5, 1923 he was appointed Judge of the Fourth Judicial District, by Governor Ragnvold A. Nestos, he served in that capacity until his death on June 21, 1947.

Benjamen J. Johnson

District Court Judge

Appointed: 2017 - Present

Born in Williston. Graduate, University of Mary, 2004. J.D. degree from University of North Dakota School of Law, 2008. In private legal practice, Tioga, 2008-2017. Northwest Judicial District public defense contractor 2012-2017. Former assistant state's attorney and state's attorney for Burke County and prosecutor for the Three Affiliated Tribes. Served as city attorney for Tioga, Ross, Wildrose, Flaxton, Portal and Bowbells. Appointed District Judge in 2017.

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Donald L. Jorgensen

District Court Judge

Elected: 1985 - 2014

Born in 1944, Kenmare, ND. Ph.B, University of North Dakota; J.D., University of North Dakota School of Law, 1970. Served in U. S. Army. Engaged in private practice in Dickinson for ten years. Served two years as county judge of Stark County. Elected Judge of the Southwest Judicial District in 1984, reelected 1990. Transferred to South Central Judicial District with chambers at Linton in 1995. Reelected in 1996, 2002 and 2008. Active as a member of the National Juvenile and Family Court Judges, served two terms as Chairman, Rural Courts Committee, National Juvenile Judges. Married: Wife, Caroleene. Three children; Damon, Heather, and Heidi. Retired July 3, 2014.

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John J. Kehoe

District Court Judge

Appointed: 1948 - 1954

Judge Kehoe was born in Castle Grove, Iowa, on November 5, 1871. He attended country school in Delaware County, Iowa, and St. Joseph's Academy and College at Dubuque. He received his law degree from the University of Iowa in 1897. He came to North Dakota in 1902, served as State's Attorney of Towner County for twenty-three years. He also was mayor of Cando, North Dakota and served two terms as State Senator from Towner County. In November, 1948 he was appointed Judge of the Second Judicial District by Governor Fred G. Aandahl, he served in that capacity until his resignation on May 12, 1954. Judge Kehoe died on December 10, 1956.

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Clemens F. Kelsch

District Court Judge

Appointed: 1962 - 1974

Judge Kelsch was born in Rosenthal-Odessa, Russia, November 4, 1890, and raised on a farm near Linton, North North. He graduated from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1915, he then started his law practice at Mandan, North Dakota. He served four years as Mandan City Attorney, eight years as Morton County State's Attorney, four years as First Assistant Attorney General and four years as Special Assistant Attorney for the Public Service and Water Conservation Commission. After winning the 1962 election as Judge of the Sixth Judicial District, he was appointed Judge on December 1, 1962 by William L. Guy to fill the vacancy created by the death of Judge Asmundur, he served in that capacity until 1974. Judge Kelsch died on January 2, 1987.

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Jon R. Kerian

District Court Judge

Appointed: 1980 - 1992

Born in 1927, Grafton, N.D. Graduate of Central High School, Grand Forks; University of North Dakota, Ph.B. 1955, and L.L.B. 1957, J.D. 1969. U.S. Army in Korean Conflict, 1951-52. Practiced in Grand Forks, 1958-61. Assistant Attorney General with Highway Department, 1962-67. Practiced in Minot, 1968-1980. Appointed District Judge, 1980, by Governor Arthur A. Link. Elected, 1980 and 1986. Retired as District Judge, 1992. Appointed Surrogate Judge, 1992. President, N.D. State Bar Association, 1979-80. President, Western States Bar Conference, 1983. Member, Board of Governors, National Conference of State Trial Judges (ABA), 1983-89. Editor, State Trial Judges Newletter, 1988-93. Member, Board of Editors, The Judges Journal, 1988-93. Member, Phi Delta Phi Legal Fraternity. Married to Sylvia Ann; two children, John and Ann. Judge Kerian died June 28, 2008.

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Lester Ketterling

District Court Judge

Elected: 1995 - 2005

Born 1940 in Wishek, ND. Received LL.B. degree from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1964, and admitted to practice in North Dakota. General Law practice at Westhope, ND, from 1966-1987. County Judge 1987-94. Elected district judge in 1994, 1996, and 2002. Retired as district judge Dec. 31, 2005. Married: wife, Eunice. One son. He died March 6, 2010.

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Debbie G. Kleven

District Court Judge

Elected: 1995 - 2016

Born in 1958, Valley City, ND. B.S., University of North Dakota 1980. J.D. University of North Dakota 1983. Private practice in Grand Forks, ND, 1983-85. Assistant State's Attorney, Grand Forks County, 1985-1990. Elected Grand Forks County Judge 1990 and served in that capacity 1991-94. Elected District Judge in 1994, 1996, 2002, 2008 and 2014. Married: Husband, Paul. Two children. Resigned effective Aug. 8, 2016.

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William J. Kneeshaw

District Court Judge

Elected: 1901 - 1943

Judge Kneeshaw was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on May 5, 1854. He was educated at the high school affiliated with McGill College and also St. Andrews Academy. He came to Pembina, North Dakota in 1873 and was admitted to the bar in 1879. He served as State's Attorney of Pembina County for many years and also at various times as mayor of Pembina, county commissioner and county treasurer. He was elected Judge of the Seventh Judicial District in November 1900, serving until 1919 when the judicial districts were revised. He was Judge of the Second Judicial District from 1919 until his death on September 23, 1943. He served longer as a district judge than any other judge in state history.

Jay Knudson

District Court Judge

Appointed: 2017 - Present

Grew up on a farm near Clifford, ND. Graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of North Dakota in 2001 and a law degree from the UND School of Law in 2004. In private practice in Grand Forks for six years after law school, then served as an attorney in the Indigent Defense Office in Grand Forks for four years.Served as a Judicial Referee/Magistrate Judge for the Northeast Central Judicial District 2015-2016 and then was in private practice until appointed NECJD Judge in 2017.