Bruce Van Sickle

Bruce Marion Van Sickle (February 13, 1917 April 21, 2007) was a United States federal judge.

Born in Minot, North Dakota, Van Sickle received a B.S.L. from the University of Minnesota in 1939 and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1941. He was a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, from 1941 to 1945. He was then an adjudicator in the U.S. Veterans Administration in Seattle, Washington in 1946, and a title attorney for Bonneville Power in Portland, Oregon from 1946 to 1947. He was in private practice in Minot, North Dakota from 1947 to 1971. He was a member of the North Dakota House of Representatives from 1957 to 1959.

On December 10, 1971, Van Sickle was nominated by President Richard Nixon to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota vacated by George S. Register. Van Sickle was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 11, 1971, and received his commission on December 15, 1971. In 1982, he was appointed to preside over a civil rights case in the federal court for the Western District of Arkansas in which it was claimed that the state court in Fort Smith, Arkansas was sentencing people to jail if they were financially unable to pay a fine, e.g., the alternative sentence of $50 or five days in jail even though the state and federal courts had ruled such a sentence to be in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the American Constitution. Van Sickle, a Republican, ruled the practice unconstitutional and hit Fort Smith with an award to the Plaintiff of attorney fees; his injunction ended the practice. As he told the Plaintiff's lawyer, Greg Karber, by way of encouraging suits against institutional impropriety, "the bigger they are, the louder they pop", when poked. It was, in part, the motivation Karber needed to pursue other civil rights cases for decades thereafter.

Van Sickle assumed senior status on February 28, 1985, and served in that capacity until his death, in 2007, in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Personal life

Van Sickle was a member of, among other groups, the Elks, the Toastmasters, the Shriners, and the Geriatric Trail Club.

He was survived by his wife, Dorothy; four children; six grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and five siblings.


External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
George Scott Register
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota
Succeeded by
Patrick Anthony Conmy
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