Bruce Marion Van Sickle was born in Minot, North Dakota, on February 13, 1917. He was the son of Guy and Hilda (Rosenquist) Van Sickle. Bruce Van Sickle graduated from high school in Minot in 1935 and from the University of Minnesota in 1941 with a law degree.
During World War II, Bruce Van Sickle was a Captain in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. Following the end of the war, he served as an adjudicator in the U.S. Veteran's Administration in 1946. He practiced law on his own in Minot from 1947-1952, after which he formed the firm of McGee and Van Sickle. He also served in the North Dakota House of Representatives in 1957 and 1959.
He was named to the United States District Court by President Richard Nixon in 1971. Van Sickle's tenure on the federal bench is notable for two important rulings he handed down. First, in the Association of Retarded Citizens case, the judge ruled that North Dakota 's system for the care of the developmentally disabled violated the constitutional rights of its residents by being overcrowded, under-funded and under-staffed. Van Sickle issued a series of rulings forcing the state to institute reforms. Chief among these changes was the movement of developmentally disabled persons from large state-run institutions at Grafton and San Haven to smaller, community based group homes.
In the second case, Coleman vs. Block, Van Sickle issued an injunction that forced the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) to change its loan-repayment and foreclosure policies. The decision effected over 250,000 farmers, and ordered the FmHA to allow delinquent borrowers to defer making loan payments due to financial hardships caused by factors beyond their control. This case was part of the inspiration for the 1984 film "Country."
Judge Van Sickle assumed Senior Status in February 1985, and continued to hear cases both in North Dakota and the rest of the United States as he was needed. He formally retired from the bench in February 2002. The Federal Building in Minot was named in his honor in August 2002.
Bruce Van Sickle married Dorothy Hermann of Olympia, Washington, on May 26, 1943. They had four children: Susan, John, Craig, and David. Bruce Van Sickle died April 21, 2007, in Bismarck.
Source: Patronage: Histories and Biographies of North Dakota's Federal Judges by Ardell Tharaldson. (found in Box 1, Folder 1 of the Judge Bruce Van Sickle Papers)
The Judge Bruce Van Sickle Papers have been divided into seven series:
Series 1: Biographical/Personal
Series 2: Bench Books
Series 3: Case Files
Series 4: Court Administrative Documents
Series 5: Subject Files
Series 6: Organizations
Series 7: Conferences, Meetings, and Workshops
Three photographs were separated and placed in the Photograph File Cabinets.