Elected Member

The Hon. James S. Hill

North Dakota District Court, South Central District
Mandan, ND
University of North Dakota
University of North Dakota School of Law

James S. Hill, District Judge for the North Dakota South Central Judicial District Board Certified as a Civil Trial Specialist National Board of Trial Advocacy Board Certified in Civil Practice Advocacy National Board of Civil Practice Advocacy Roster of Qualified Arbitrators American Arbitration Association General Background and Legal Experience.

I grew up in Grand Forks, ND. My parents, Ruth and Bill Hill, raised eight children and I was the fourth. My mother was a home economics teacher and my father ran a clothing store during his work life. They still reside in Grand Forks and all of my siblings have remained in North Dakota. I attended the University of North Dakota for undergraduate school. I graduated from the University of North Dakota, School of Law, in 1974. Upon graduation, I accepted a position as law clerk for then-Chief Judge of the United States District Court, District of North Dakota- Judge Paul Benson, who was chambered in Fargo, North Dakota. In 1976, I moved to Bismarck, North Dakota where I accepted an appointment as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota and served in that position until 1981 as a trial attorney. I was the only AUSA stationed in Bismarck during that five year timeframe. I was charged with the responsibility of managing the grand jury process and the prosecution of federal crimes which were diverse. I also represented the federal government in a broad range of civil actions. In 1981, I left federal service and entered into private practice with the Bismarck law firm of Zuger Kirmis & Smith where I am today. I have concentrated my practice in civil litigation and professional malpractice defense. Since beginning the practice of law, I have sat first chair in well over a hundred civil and criminal jury cases in addition to a great number of bench trials in state and federal courts. I have represented the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad since 1984 in a broad range of litigation. With the ever increasing use of ADR I have also participated as an advocate in a great number of mediations in both state courts and federal courts in a variety of cases and in multiple jurisdictions. I have appeared before the North Dakota Supreme Court on numerous occasions throughout my career.


During my yearsin practice, I have engaged intensely in a very broad range of activities within the State Bar Association, (SBAND), the South Central Judicial District Bar Association, the Burleigh County (now Big Muddy) Bar Association and the American Bar Association. In my position as a Delegate to the American Bar Association from SBAND I have had the privilege to sit as a member of the Board of Governors of the State Bar Association. Among my bar activities I served as a member of the Commission for Continuing Legal Education for six years, the last four of which I served as its chairman. During that time frame, our commission instituted major changes in the structure of the Commission. We also re-drafted the rules for the Commission which allowed the Commission and, in effect, the State Bar Association, to assume responsibility of certifying to the Supreme Court those individuals who have completed their requirements under the continuing legal education program and also certifying those who have failed to do so which results in suspension from the practice of law. The changes to the Commission were cited by the 1989 report of the special committee on the unified bar as a "model for bar administered programs establishing standards for all members of the SBAND." Today we have an outstanding CLE commission comprised solely of SBAND members controlling the entire process, including the disciplinary function all with the concurrence of the Supreme Court. I have also served as a member of Inquiry Committee West of SBAND (lawyer discipline) for four years and served as its chair for two years. As chair I oversaw the transition of the Inquiry Committee West from an organization comprised solely of attorneys to an entity which is now comprised of both lawyers and lay individuals. I also served as the only lawyer member and eventually as chair of the Judicial Conduct Commission in North Dakota. In that capacity I was chair of the panel which heard and decided the matter involving Judge Michael O. McGuire, see, Judicial Conduct Commission v. McGuire, 2004 ND 171. I served as a Member of the Ethics Committee of the North Dakota State Bar Association for 12 years. The federal courts within the District of North Dakota some years ago organized a Federal Practice Committee in association with the State Bar Association and with the request of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in order to direct information to the federal practitioner. I served as chairman of that committee for the first three years of its existence. In 1987-88, I served as a member of the Board of Governors of the State Bar Association as a representative of the South Central Judicial District. In June 1990, I was elected President-Elect of SBAND. During my year as President, we re-vamped the accounting structure and hired a new executive director. In 1994, I was elected State Bar Association delegate to the ABA, a position I presently hold until August 2014. In that position I continue to serve on the Board of Governors of SBAND. I was elected the State Delegate for North Dakota on the ABA House of Delegates for a term extending through 2016 and have recently been elected to a second term. . In August 2013 I completed a three year term on the 38 member ABA Board of Governors, a position I was elected to in 2010. Very few North Dakota lawyers have had that opportunity, the last being Judge Kermit Edward Bye. Fargo, ND. I was appointed a North Dakota State District Judge in September 0f 2014, a position I presently hold. I 3 | Page am chambered in Mandan, ND. I sit as a Member of the Supreme Court Jury Standards Committee and the Personnel Policy Board. Although assuming the bench I continue my ABA involvement. I have recently been re-appointed Chair of the ABA Commission on Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts commencing with the adjournment of the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting, my third term. I have in my legal career served on a number of taskforces in State Bar Association. I was a member of the Joint Commission on Lawyer Discipline and Admissions whose primary function was to re-write the disciplinary rules governing the members of this Association. It was a commission that evolved out of a proposal I had made to the Supreme Court on behalf of our Association to address concerns raised by the American Bar Association through the McKay Report which addressed lawyer discipline on a national level. I was also a member of the Multi-Jurisdictional Practice of Law Taskforce of SBAND which has recently presented its recommendations to the North Dakota Supreme Court concerning the ethical and rule changing issues that are associated with a national trend towards allowing multi-jurisdictional law practice a matter back on the agenda of the ABA. I was also one of three drafters of the SBAND Aspirations of Professionalism and Civility, which were adopted by the State Bar Association in 2009. It is a series of aspirational goals assigned to attorneys in order to foster and maintain an atmosphere of professionalism and civility in the practice of law even as we zealously advocate on behalf of clients within our justice system. I have also been a strong advocate for and have contributed to a proposed Lawyers Diversion Program which traveled through the Joint Attorney Standards Committee and which was approved by the North Dakota Supreme Court. I appeared before the Court to advocate its creation. The general concept was to create a mechanism that could be used to divert impaired lawyers from the disciplinary system and into a treatment program. I have gone through the qualifying process and am qualified to act as a Mentor under the existing program. I was one of the organizers of the first American Inn of Court established in North Dakota. I served as the first president of the Bruce M. Van Sickle American Inn of Court from 1993-1995. This is national organization dedicated to developing a deeper sense of professionalism, achieving higher levels of excellence and furthering the practice of law with dignity and integrity. I am licensed in Minnesota and North Dakota and am admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court, District of North Dakota, District of Minnesota, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. I am certified as a Civil Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and have been since 1994. I am married to Charlotte R. Hill who is a retired Senior High School Librarian. We have one daughter, Sarah J. Hill, who is has recently completed her M.D.; Ph.D. school at Harvard University, Boston, MA.

Areas of Expertise
Criminal Litigation (Criminal Law)
Civil Litigation (Litigation)