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Aubrey Fiebelkorn-Zuger

SBAND President


As attorneys, we rely on the judicial system to resolve disputes between parties. At the core of our system is the fundamental premise that all cases are decided by an independent judiciary, with appropriate limits on government powers, and individual rights are protected throughout the process. An independent judiciary is critical to making sure the rule of law is respected and followed.

While attorneys might take for granted the law will be applied fairly and equally to all, parties involved in the process, most who never believed they would have a case pending in court, may not share that same level of confidence in our system. The public also may not realize the rule of law is necessary to ensuring our rights and well-being are protected. As Judge Thomas Hardiman of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals explained, “We can’t have peaceful interactions with one another without the rule of law.”

The need to educate and promote the rule of law is not only vitally important in the United States. Rather, respect for the rule of law is critical to an orderly society in every country. Unfortunately, the World Justice Project recently evaluated the performance of 126 countries with respect to their adherence to the rule of law. That study, which considered responses from 3,800 experts and 120,000 households, showed for the second year in a row, more countries declined, rather than improved, in the overall rule of law performance.

While this recent data is concerning, efforts are underway to improve education to the public about the importance of an independent, accountable, and well-functioning judiciary. To that end, organizations such as the American Bar Association (ABA) provide assistance and resources to train judges and court personnel; implement codes of judicial ethics; facilitate dialogue on judicial reform and independence; and strengthen court administration and transparency. The ABA has also implemented programs designed to improve the criminal justice system by eliminating bias, enhancing the protection of rights for the accused, and providing technical assistance to prosecutors, police, defense counsel, and judges. This work is being done within the United States and around the world.

Work is also ongoing in North Dakota to improve civics and public education. To that end, SBAND publishes a booklet, titled “Living in an Adult World - Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities at 18,” to educate high school seniors and young adults about the legal system. This publication is available to all high school seniors in North Dakota. Electronic access is also available at

SBAND also partners with the Center for Civic Education and Humanities North Dakota to sponsor the “We the People” program. “We the People” is the most extensive program in the nation designed to educate youth about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The “We the People” program conducts local teacher professional development related to civics education, holds conferences, and organizes simulated congressional hearings for elementary and secondary students.

SBAND also recently started hosting its own high school mock trial program. This program brings high school students together with attorneys and judges from across the state to learn more about the American legal system, especially trial process and procedures. This year’s state mock trial tournament will be held March 28 in Bismarck, with the winner advancing to the national competition. This is a great opportunity for SBAND members to become more involved in our public education efforts. Attorneys and judges are encouraged to partner with their local schools to help coach a team or volunteer to judge the competition.

These SBAND programs, as well as others such as Law Day and SBAND’s Constitution Award, are significant programs aimed at enhancing legal and civic education in North Dakota. These efforts teach the importance of the judicial system and how critical the rule of law is to ensuring the fair and just determination of disputes. If you have any interest in learning more about these programs or volunteering to assist with any of them, please let SBAND know.

more Calendar

7/5/2020 » 8/27/2020
SBAND 2020 Annual Meeting Webinar Series

8/12/2020 » 8/14/2020
2020 Annual Meeting CANCELED

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