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Burleigh County Senior Assistant State's Attorney Julie Lawyer has announced her candidacy for state's attorney in 2018.

The 18-year prosecutor made the announcement over the noon hour Friday in a conference room of Bismarck's Quality Inn.

"The concerns that I see are an increase in crime, an increase in caseload that our attorneys have and we do have a younger office, so we have less experience than we've had in the past," Lawyer said. 

Twenty-year incumbent Richard Riha announced Wednesday his intention to not seek re-election and to retire when his term concludes in January 2019, ending a 36-year career with the Burleigh County State's Attorney's Office.

Lawyer grew up in Bismarck. Her career began as a Stutsman County assistant state's attorney after graduating from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1999, admitted to the state bar association that same year.

In 2000, she joined the Burleigh County State's Attorney's Office, having spent 13 years there, bookending a four-year stint with the attorney general's office in prosecuting state and federal drug offenses.

She returned in 2013 to Burleigh County as a senior assistant state's attorney. 

Lawyer lauded Riha's impact on her career, such as his office mentorship program and the years they have worked together on cases here.

"He's also shown me how to be a state's attorney," she said. 

Riha and Lawyer respectively highlighted the increasing caseload in Burleigh County in recent years. Lawyer said more violent offenses are coming across their desks these days.

"Today alone we just got another rape and another child abuse case, and we're seeing those more and more often, unfortunately," she said.

Since she joined the Burleigh County State's Attorney's Office, attorney staff have more than doubled, from six to 13.

In her senior role, Lawyer has prosecuted more complex cases, including sex offenses, domestic violence and murder. 

"I am familiar with the job. I am familiar with how to do the job," Lawyer said. "I'm very well familiar with how to present a complex case to a jury."

Last week, South Central District Judge John Grinsteiner accepted her recommendation to sentence convicted murderer Morris Brickle-Hicks to life imprisonment without parole. 

"Burleigh County needs someone who is familiar with the community, who is familiar with the issues that are facing the county and who is a strong and responsible, experienced leader, and that person is me," she said. 

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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Crime and Courts Reporter