It was a memorable occasion at the Hettinger County Courthouse on Jan. 6 as former state’s attorney James (Jim) Gion was ceremoniously installed as a Southwest Judicial District Judge. The Southwest Judicial District covers the counties of Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, Slope and Stark.
By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Gion is replacing the retiring Judge Zane Anderson.
The investiture ceremony took place at 1 p.m. in Mott, inside the very room Gion has been presenting to judges for the past 25 years as Hettinger County State’s Attorney. The next time Gion will be in the room, he’ll be the one on the bench donning the black robe and gavel.
Gion, a Regent native, had also been Slope County State’s Attorney since 2012. He also previously served as state’s attorney for Bowman and Grant Counties as well as the city of Regent.
Judge William Herauf opened the day explaining the ceremony and giving the crowd a preview of what to expect.
The courtroom was filled with family and friends. His parents Jim and Marie, wife Susan and son Tyrel sat close as friends and colleagues of Gion spoke kindly of the former attorney turned judge.
Many dignitaries were in Mott for the program, including Gov. Jack Dalrymple and his staff.
Also attending was the entire North Dakota Supreme Court, something Dalrymple jokingly said is not a usual practice.
“Jim, it’s not every investiture that I bring along the entire Supreme Court,” Dalrymple said.
Three current judges from around the state, along with surrogate judge Zane Anderson, also attended the event.
Dalrymple was the first to remark on Gion, saying it was an honor to be able to present to the crowd on this occasion.
“What a great honor it is for me, and a privilege for Jim to congratulate you,” Dalrymple said. “It’s a proud moment for a lot of people, not just yourself (Gion).”
Dalrymple joked that it was a ‘low risk’ appointment on his part, and cited Gion’s time as a state’s attorney around the region that will help him succeed in his new position.
“Jim you have all the qualifications that we look for, no question about that,” Dalrymple said. “I want to add that there is one extra intangible thing that I think is important and that is your familiarity and passion to your community, to the people that you will be judging in the upcoming years.”
Justice Daniel J. Crothers was the second guest to remark on Gion and his appointment. The two are friends as they attended law school in the same class at the University of North Dakota.
Anecdotes and kind words filled Crothers’ speech, and through his speech Crothers gave the crowd a view of Gion during his law school days. It was a good moment for two long-time friends, sharing old stories with the crowd about the past; and it was especially nice to be able to share it at a time when both are at the top of their careers after nearly three decades. Crothers also noted that there are currently seven sitting North Dakota judges that were members of the same law school class.
Following Crothers’ speech, Gion was asked to come forward and receive his robe.
Presenting the regalia were his wife and son, a picturesque moment for the family.
Elizabeth Ebert, President of the Southwest Judicial District Bar Association presented Gion with his Gavel.
For the final part of the ceremony, Chief Justice Gerald W. VandeWalle said a few remarks and with Gion standing up front recited the Oath of Office. Holding the Bible was his father, Jim, and his mother, Marie. As the words came out, Gion became emotional.
Gion spoke following the oath, making sure to thank as many people as he could that have effected his life. He mentioned in particular his brother-in-law, John Seuss, who encouraged him as a young man to enter law school.
Gion didn’t mince words, letting his emotions hang on his sleeve throughout his speech.
“I will stammer and stumble, I will rule with regret, I will be commended and I will also be condemned by people that appear before me. But I will guarantee that I will give my upmost to be worthy of the title judge,” Gion said.
Gion finished his speech with a personal promise to the people:
“I’m embarking on a new journey, a new trail, and very humbled and grateful. My intention is that I will be the best judge that I can possibly be. I will listen carefully, I will judge impartially, and I really want to reward everybody’s confidence in me. I’m going to do this job, so help me God.”
Following the ceremony, everyone gathered in the lobby of the courtroom for refreshments, giving people the chance to personally congratulate the new judge on his appointment to judgeship.