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Dave Roepke, Published September 04 2010

Taking the bench: Fair McEvers sworn in as judge

Fargo’s new trial judge was sworn in Friday, donning her black robe for the first time and calling her ascension to the bench a dream come true.

Formerly North Dakota’s labor commissioner, Judge Lisa Fair McEvers held out her journey from a judge’s calendar clerk to a jurist in her own right as proof that ambitions can be realized.

“It only took 23 years,” Fair McEvers said.

The investiture, as the judicial swearing-in is called, was a ceremonious affair that drew enough of a crowd to fill one of the Cass County Courthouse’s largest courtrooms and nearly fill a second smaller courtroom in which it appeared on closed-circuit TV.

North Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle administered the oath of office, speaking in his prepared remarks about the constraints and sacrifices required to hold the “intimidating responsibility” of being a judge.

“It is only if it’s a credible and respected system of justice that it will survive,” VandeWalle said.

Fair McEvers was appointed to the post by Gov. John Hoeven, who has now appointed four of the eight judges in the East Central Judicial District. The East Central Judicial District includes courts in Cass, Steele and Traill counties.

She replaces Judge Georgia Dawson, who is retiring after 22 years of wielding a gavel in Cass County. Fair McEvers, 48, a former Cass County assistant state’s attorney who prosecuted drug crimes, will take over the pending cases on Dawson’s docket.

Judge Frank Racek, who has stepped into Dawson’s former role as the presiding East Central judge, said Fair McEvers takes office during an interesting transition. A new record system is coming online that will soon give judges digital access to every filing in the state court system, and an expansion is under way that adds three new courtrooms in Cass County.

“She’s joining us at a very exciting time,” Racek said.

Fair McEvers will preside over her first cases Tuesday, handling 68 files set for hearings that day.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535