BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS
[Authorized: NDCC Section 27-11-06]
The examination of attorneys started in 1862 with the Territorial Legislature (T. L.1862, Ch. 5). It was given by the judges of the District or Supreme Court and allowed a person of good moral character and twenty-one years or older to become licensed as a practicing attorney. In 1865 an out of state attorney could be admitted to the Dakota Territory Bar if they had a license from another state (T. L. 1865, Ch. 9). Prospective licensed attorneys were examined in open District Court. Also in 1865 allowances for removal from the bar were addressed.
In 1891 North Dakota State law determined that the Supreme Court could admit attorneys to the bar. Applicants had to be at least twenty-one years of age, a resident of the state, and of good moral character (S. L. 1891, Ch. 119). Applicants were examined by the Supreme Court or by a three-member committee appointed by the members of the North Dakota Supreme Court. In 1901 (S. L. 1901, Ch. 23), all graduates of the law department at the University of North Dakota were admitted without further examination and upon presentation of their diplomas and within two years of graduation. Final examination papers were reviewed by the Supreme Court before admittance was gained.
In 1905 the State Board of Examiners in Law was created by state law (S. L. 1905, Ch. 50) with the Supreme Court appointing three members to constitute the Board. Each member served a six-year term. Vacancies to fill unexpired terms were by appointment. At least twice a year the State Board of Examiners in Law held a public examination for admission to the bar. A report of the examinations was made to the Supreme Court and the final decision resulted in admission to the bar. No one was allowed to practice law without a license and admittance to the bar. In 1913 the legislature established that a uniform fee had to be paid by the applicant before an exam could be taken (S. L. 1913, Ch. 275). License renewal was required after 1913 and fees and licenses were issued by the Clerk of the Supreme Court who served as secretary-treasurer for the Board. In 1919 the State Board of Examiners in Law became the State Bar Board with the same duties that were implemented by the State Board of Examiners in Law (S. L. 1919, Ch. 69). The Governor appointed three members who served six-year terms to carry out the duties. The Board organized by electing a president from among the membership and the Clerk of the Supreme Court served as ex-officio secretary -treasurer. Assistants could be hired if necessary. Written and aural examinations were given to applicants twice a year and a record of application and admission was kept for every attorney who planned to practice in the state. Misconduct charges were investigated by the State Bar Board. Previously this action had been carried out by the State Bar Association of North Dakota. In 1921 an act by the Legislature created, defined, and established the State Bar Association. The Legislative Assembly asked the Association to create a constitution, by-laws, and rules of order. It was to be known as the State Bar Association of North Dakota and was required to publish and file its proceedings with the State Bar Board and the State Libraries (S. L. 1921, Ch.25).
The Supreme Court of the State of North Dakota appointed three persons who were state residents and licensed members of the bar. The Supreme Court continued to have authority to admit attorneys and counselors. In 1923 legislation changed who could be licensed and admitted to the bar, how members were appointed to the State Bar Board, and how cases were investigated (S. L. 1923, Ch. 134). Distribution of funds from licensing fees was explained (S. L. 1933, Ch. 143).
The legislation in 1977 required certain court judges to be licensed and to become a member of the State Bar Board (S. L.1977, Ch. 267). Along with licensing practices attorneys had to pay a renewal fee to the treasurer (Clerk of the Supreme Court) of the State Bar Board (S. L. 1983, Ch. 346). The authority for admission came from the Board or the Supreme Court (S. L. 1983, Ch. 346). Legislation authorized the Supreme Court to adopt rules relating to the practice of law as well as rules relating to the Board. The State Bar Board was responsible for carrying out the duties of admission of applicants to the bar as prescribed by state law and the Supreme Court. A change in state law in 1997 allowed the Supreme Court to expand membership up to five, and three of the members had to be licensed members and state residents. Each Board member was appointed from a list of nominees submitted by the State Bar Association. If the State Bar Association nominated a member for reappointment a list of nominees was not required unless requested by the Supreme Court (S. L. 1997, Ch. 265). Also in 1997 the Supreme Court could return the list and ask for additional names.
Legislation in 2001renamed the State Bar Board to the State Board of Law Examiners (S. L. 2001, Ch. 286). The major duty of the State Board of Law Examiners was to conduct examinations of applicants for admission to the bar and conduct investigations as to the moral character of applicants, including both applicants seeking admission by examination and those by motion based upon being licensed attorneys practicing for the required number of years in other states. The Board handled the annual licensing of persons holding unrevoked certificates of admission to the bar and reported the results to the Supreme Court together with the recommendation for admission to practice law in North Dakota.
1862 District and Supreme Court judges conducted the exam for applicants who had to be at least twenty-one years old (T. L. 1862, Ch. 5).
1865 Licensed attorneys from other states were admitted to the bar. Prospective attorneys were examined in open court (T. L. 1865, Ch. 9).
1891 The Supreme Court or a committee of three appointed by the Supreme Court conducted the exam to prospective attorneys who wanted to practice in the courts of North Dakota (S. L. 1891, Ch. 119).
1899 The State Bar Association of North Dakota was founded.
1901 Graduates from the law department at the University of North Dakota were admitted to the bar without taking further examinations. Two years of law courses were required (S. L. 1901, Ch. 23).
1905 The State Board of Examiners in Law was created and consisted of three members who were approved by the Supreme Court. Members served a six year term. Each year two public examinations were held. A license was required in order to practice in the state (S. L. 1905, Ch. 50).
1919 The State Bar Board succeeded the State Board of Examiners in Law. Members who were not in compliance were investigated by the State Bar Board instead of the State Bar Association (S. L. 1919, Ch. 69).
1921 The State Bar Association was created (S. L. 1921, Ch. 25).
1923 Members of the State Bar Board were selected from a list of members of State Bar Association. Annual exams were offered by the State Bar Board. The State Bar Association received a portion of the fees from the State Bar Fund (S. L. 1923, Ch. 134).
1931 Applicants for admission to the bar had to complete three years of courses in law (S. L. 1931, Ch. 90).
1933 Anyone practicing law in this state had to be licensed and pay the fee paid. Non-compliance was a misdemeanor. Guidelines for disbursement of fees were listed (S. L. 1933, Ch. 143).
1973 An applicant to the bar had to at least eighteen years of age (S. L. 1973, Ch. 120)
1977 Certain judges of the Supreme and District Court were required to be licensed by the State Bar Board (S. L. 1977, Ch. 267).
1983 The State Bar Board was given authority relating to the admission of applicants to the bar as prescribed by state law and the Supreme Court. Annually the treasurer of State Bar Board issued the renewed license and collected a fee (S. L. 1983, Ch. 346).
1997 The Supreme Court appointed at least three and no more than five persons to the State Bar Board with the stipulation that at least three members be North Dakota residents who were a licensed member of the State Bar Association (S. L. 1997, Ch. 265).
2001 Legislation changed the name of State Bar Board to the State Board of Law Examiners (S. L. 2001, Ch. 286).
Laws of Dakota Territory.
Legislative History of North Dakota State Agencies: Richard J. Wolfert State Librarian. State Library
North Dakota Century Code.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Bar of Law Examiners Website.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.
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