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North Dakota Legal Research: The Basics

Overview of North Dakota Law

North Dakota legal materials come from a variety of sources on the state and local level.

More information on how to access and use these resources can be found by clicking on tabs across the top of this guide.



The North Dakota Century Code (NDCC) is the official compilation of North Dakota statutes. The North Dakota Legislative Assembly, composed of elected members of the House and the Senate, meets every odd numbered year, and occasionally for a special session. The next session begins January 2019. Introduced Bills passed by committees are voted on by the legislative assembly. Once passed, bills passed are sent on to the Governor for signature. If approved, the bill becomes state law.

The North Dakota Century Code is available online. Print copies are located in a variety of libraries throughout the state. The print version is annotated and has an index.


In a common law system, the judicial branch is empowered to interpret and make law while adjudicating disputes. Final rulings of the North Dakota Supreme court are published in opinions, available online and in print. There are two main types of court in North Dakota.

Trial Court
Each county in the state has a district court to hear original lawsuits and actions filed in the county. When parties to a lawsuit are unable to resolve a dispute, the case is scheduled for trial. After the completion of a trial, either party has the opportunity to dispute and appeal rulings of law made by the trial court judge. Appeals are made to the North Dakota Supreme Court. 

Appellate Court
The North Dakota Supreme Court is the main court of appeal in the state. The court hears appeals arising from the state district courts. Attorneys file with the court briefs setting out the major issues and arguments in the particular case. The court rules on the issues presented in a published opinion. Briefs and opinions are available online at the court's website and in print in the Northwest Reporter.


Elected officials of the executive branch include the Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State, among others. Agencies within the executive branch have rulemaking authority over issues within their specific area of law. Agency rules and regulations are available online.


Larger municipalities in the state publish city ordinances governing residents and visitors within city limits. Please click on the tab to locate additional information and how to access municipal codes. 




The United States Attorney's Office is responsible for representing the federal government in litigation involving the United States in federal criminal prosecutions, civil lawsuits against the government, and actions to collect judgments and restitution on behalf of victims and taxpayers. The US Attorney is based in Fargo, has a staffed office in Bismarck, and appears in regular hearings and trials in both Grand Forks and Minot.


Like the state court system, the federal court is comprised of two main types of courts; trial and appellate.

The federal trial court is called the Federal Court for the District of North Dakota. The District of North Dakota encompasses all 53 counties of the state. Hearings and trials are held in Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks and Minot.

North Dakota is part of the federal Eighth Circuit. Appeals from the North Dakota District Court, along with six other states, are made to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court is one of thirteen United States federal courts of appeals. There are eleven active appellate judges. The appeals court for the eighth circuit is based in St. Louis, MO.

Appeals from the Eight Circuit are made to the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.