Remembering Justice H.F. "Sparky" Gierke, Class of 1966

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

School of Law


Justice H.F. Sparky Gierke III, 73, Bismarck, died August 7, 2016, at CHI St. Alexius Health, Bismarck.

A funeral service will be held at 11:30 am Friday, August 12, at Parkway Funeral Service, 2330 Tyler Parkway, Bismarck, with Rev. Darrel Aleson officiating.

Burial will be at 1:00 pm Friday at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Mandan.

Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service at Parkway Funeral Service.

Justice Gierke was born in Williston, ND, on March 13, 1943, the son of Herman F. Jr. and Mary (Kelly) Gierke and grew up on the family ranch near Watford City. He attended the University of North Dakota and received a B.A. degree in 1964 and a juris doctor degree from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1966. He was admitted to the North Dakota Bar in 1966. He attended Judge Advocate General's School of the Army at the University of Virginia in 1967. He served as a Captain in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the Army from May 1967 to April 1971. During the first two and one-half years of that time, he served as a legal assistance officer, with duties similar to those of a general office practice, and served in the military justice section, prosecuting and defending before courts-martial. From December 1969 to December 1970, he served as a trial judge in over 500 court-martials in the Republic of Vietnam.

Upon return from Vietnam, he served as a military judge at Fort Carson, Colorado, until release from active duty in April 1971. Upon his return to North Dakota, he practiced law for 12 years in Watford City. During that time, he served as McKenzie County State's Attorney from 1974 to 1982 and City Attorney for Watford City from 1974 to September 1983. He served as President of the State Bar Association of North Dakota in 1982-83. In 1984, he received the Governor's Award for outstanding service to the state from Governor Allen I. Olson. He served as State Commander of the North Dakota American Legion from 1983 to 1984, and was appointed State Judge Advocate of the North Dakota American Legion. On August 28, 1985, he was elected National Vice Commander of the American Legion, and on September 8, 1988, was elected National Commander of the American Legion. In 1989, he was the recipient of the UND Alumni Association's Sioux Award, which is given to acknowledge achievement and public service.

On September 2, 1983, Governor Olson appointed him to the North Dakota Supreme Court to fill the remainder of Justice Paulson's term. He was elected to complete that term in November 1984. In November 1986, Justice Gierke was elected to a ten-year term. After serving on the Court for eight years, Justice Gierke resigned November 20, 1991, after his appointment by President George H.W. Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (previously the Court of Military Appeals) in Washington, D.C. He served as Chief Judge of that court from 2006-2008, and then took senior status. He was also an enthusiastic teacher of law and served as an adjunct faculty member at George Washington and Catholic universities in Washington, DC. Following his retirement from the bench, he taught law at several universities in Florida. Justice Gierke held a private pilot license and enjoyed flying.

Justice Gierke is survived by his three sons, Todd (Jan), Scott (Marissa), and Craig (Jennifer); his daughter, Michelle (John); and his 12 grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family would request memorials in Sparky's name be sent to the North Dakota American Legion Foundation (NDALF), P.O. Box 5057, West Fargo, ND 58078.