In the Matter of the Petition for Leave to Appeal of Robert V. Bolinske
Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of North Dakota, Respondent
from the Disciplinary Board's decision.
V. Bolinske, Sr., Bismarck, ND, petitioner.
J. Erickson, Bismarck, ND, for respondent.
1] Attorney Robert V. Bolinske, Sr. appeals a decision of the
Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court, affirming the
Inquiry Committee West decision to admonish him for violating
the North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct and the North
Dakota Code of Judicial Conduct. Bolinske argues the
disciplinary procedure violated his right to due process. We
2] In 2016 Bolinske campaigned for a seat on the Supreme
Court. As part of his campaign Bolinske issued a press
release alleging in part that certain members of the
judiciary hid court records from the public. He claimed a
petition for a supervisory writ he filed with this Court
against a district court judge was purposely hidden or
misfiled under the docket number of another case on this
3] A disciplinary complaint was filed against Bolinske,
alleging his press release violated the North Dakota Rules of
Professional Conduct. Bolinske denied that his conduct was
unethical. Bolinske appeared at a March 2017 meeting before
the Inquiry Committee West and provided the committee with
documentary evidence he claimed supported his position. The
Inquiry Committee found Bolinske violated N.D.R. Prof.
Conduct 8.2(a), relating to making false statements
concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, and
N.D. Code Jud. Conduct 4.3(A)(1), requiring judicial
candidates to act with impartiality, integrity and
independence. The Inquiry Committee issued Bolinske an
admonition, determining the allegations made in his press
release were made knowingly or with reckless disregard as to
their truth or falsity.
4] Bolinske appealed the Inquiry Committee decision to the
Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court, which affirmed the
Inquiry Committee's admonition. Bolinske appealed to this
5] Our review of this proceeding is governed by N.D.R. Lawyer
Discipl. 3.1(D), relating to informal district inquiry
committee investigations and procedures. Under N.D.R. Lawyer
Discipl. 3.1(D)(8), "[t]he determination of the board
may be the subject of a petition for leave to appeal to the
court, but leave will not be granted unless the person
seeking leave to appeal shows that the board acted
arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably." "[W]e
construe this provision to mean the arbitrary and capricious
standard governs our initial decision to grant leave to
appeal, and we apply it only in reviewing procedural aspects
of the Disciplinary Board's decision, rather than in
reviewing the substantive evidence relied upon to support
imposition of disciplinary sanctions." Toth v.
Disciplinary Bd., 1997 ND 75, ¶ 10, 562 N.W.2d 744.
6] Although Bolinske raises arguments relating to the
substantive evidence and merits of his informal admonition,
we granted leave to consider Bolinske's appeal of the
Disciplinary Board's decision "on the procedural
issue of whether the Disciplinary Board acted arbitrarily,
capriciously or unreasonably, in affirming the issuance of an
admonition by Inquiry Committee West."
7] Bolinske argues the Disciplinary Board's decision
affirming the admonition is arbitrary, capricious and
unreasonable because its decision does not discuss what facts
it considered and contains no analysis. He contends the
Board's decision did not afford him adequate due process
because he was not able to argue his appeal in front of the
Board or attend the Board's meeting at which it
considered his appeal.
8] In Gerber v. Disciplinary Board, 2015 ND 217,
¶ 18, 868 N.W.2d 861, this Court addressed procedural