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ND Supreme Court upholds disciplinary action against Bismarck attorney, candidate

Robert V. Bolinske Sr.

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Supreme Court upheld disciplinary action taken against a self-described "brawler" Bismarck attorney and candidate for the state's highest court this week.

In an opinion issued Tuesday, March 20, justices affirmed a disciplinary board decision to admonish Robert Bolinske Sr. for alleging members of the judiciary had worked to hide public records. He made the allegations against then-Justice Dale Sandstrom and his wife, South Central District Judge Gail Hagerty, who filed a complaint in October 2016.

Bolinske ran unsuccessfully against Jerod Tufte for the seat Sandstrom was to vacate when he retired two months after the 2016 election. He said he's running against Justice Lisa Fair McEvers in this year's contest.

An inquiry committee admonished Bolinske in March 2017 and found that allegations made in a press release "were made knowingly or with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity," according to the Supreme Court's brief. The committee said Bolinske violated professional and judicial conduct rules.

An admonition doesn't limit a lawyer's ability to practice.

Bolinske appealed to the Supreme Court's disciplinary board, which affirmed the inquiry committee's decision, before turning to the court itself. He said he wasn't able to attend the board's meeting when it considered his appeal and its decision "contains no analysis."

In their opinion, justices said disciplinary rules don't provide an opportunity to appear at the board's meeting for an appeal "in an informal proceeding." They said Bolinske "failed to establish a lack of due process" under lawyer disciplinary rules.

Bolinske said he's still considering his options.

"This ain't done," he said. "This is not over by a very long shot."

Tufte and Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle didn't participate in the case, and McEvers "disqualified herself subsequent to oral argument" and didn't participate in the decision, according to the court's opinion.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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