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Dennis Edward Johnson

Dennis is native to Watford City and, except for his time at University and Law School, he has spent his entire life in McKenzie County and Watford City. Dennis has a variety of interests. He studied anthropology and archaeology at the University of North Dakota and participated in many field adventures and digs. He is known as the “local historian” for McKenzie County. Dennis is the author of the book End of the Rope – The True Story of North Dakota’s Last Lynching, which is about the lynching of a mass murderer in McKenzie County in 1931. He has been active in many local history investigations and publications, including as an editor for Called to the Prairie: Life in McKenzie County, North Dakota 1915-1916, which is the complete journals of Richard C. Jahn that document his time in McKenzie County from October, 1915, through September, 1916.

Dennis also enjoys many activities involving the outdoors that captivate his interest: Hunting big game and upland game, training dogs, horses, motorcycle riding, flying a 1941 Piper J-3 Cub airplane, sailing, fishing, ATV adventures, canoeing, and just general exploring.

After graduating from Watford City High School (1974), Dennis attended the University of North Dakota and earned a B.A. from the Honors Program with a concentration in archaeology (1976). He attended the University of North Dakota Law School from 1977 to 1980 and, after completing law school, he returned to McKenzie County, where in 1980 he founded the law firm that is today Johnson & Sundeen.

Dennis considers one of his highest honors received while practicing law to have come after successfully resolving a personal injury case for a Hidatsa Native American, when his client’s family ceremonially adopted him as a clan member and invited him to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony, where he was given the name MaDa Gah Dee Ma Gah, which means War Buffalo.

In 2016, Dennis was also bestowed with the prestigious Light of Justice award by the North Dakota Association for Justice. This award is given to those attorneys and jurists who have spent their lifetime carrying the light of justice into the world and had previously been given only eleven times since 1973.

  • Education
    • Watford City High School, 1974
    • University of North Dakota, B.A., summa cum laude with honors, 1976
    • University of North Dakota, J.D., with distinction, 1980.
      • Order of the Coif, Senior Member
      • Moot Court
      • Recipient American Jurisprudence Award in Contracts
      • Staff Member, Student Editorial, North Dakota Law Review, 1979-1980
  • Admissions
    • North Dakota, 1980
    • U.S. District Court, District of North Dakota, 1980
    • U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, 1990
  • States Attorney, McKenzie County, North Dakota, 1982-2013
  • Past Associate Justice for Northern Plains Intertribal Court of Appeals
  • Past Prosecutor for Three Affiliated Tribes
  • Former Judge, City of New Town, North Dakota
  • Registered Abstractor, 1985-
  • Associations:
    • North Dakota Association for Justice
      • Past President
      • Current Member Board of Governors
      • State Delegate for American Association of Justice, former
    • North Dakota State Bar Association
      • Member Board of Governors, former
      • Ethics Committee, former
      • Judiciary Committee, former
      • Pattern Jury Instructions Committee, present
    • Upper Missouri Valley Bar Association
      • Past President
    • American Association for Justice
  • Awards:
    • Light of Justice Award – 2016 from the North Dakota Association of Justice
    • 2015 – Nation’s Top One Percent – National Association of Distinguished Counsel
    • 2014 – Nationally Ranked Top 10 Attorney Award – National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys
    • 2015 – selected to Top Lawyer in Global Directory of Who’s Who
    • 2015 Great Plains Super Lawyers
  • Practice Areas:
    • Personal Injury and Wrongful Death
      • Serious injuries, industrial and oilfield accidents
    • Products Liability
    • Oil and Gas Law
      • Complex litigation
      • Lease review
      • Pipeline easement review
      • Surface use agreement review
      • Gravel and scoria mining agreement review
      • Contract review
      • Mediator for complex disputes
    • Business Formation, including corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLC)
    • Commercial Litigation
    • General Civil Litigation, all stages including jury trials and appellate practice
    • Appeals, state and federal courts
    • Probate
    • Estate Planning
    • Collections
  • Selected Reported Cases
    • Black Stone Minerals Co. v. Brokaw, 2017 ND 110, (oil and gas)
    • Fleck v. Missouri River Royalty Corp., 2015 ND 287, 872 N.W.2d 329 (oil and gas)
    • Tank v. Citation Oil & Gas Corp., 2014 ND 123, 848 N.W.2d 691 (oil and gas)
    • Gadeco v. Industrial Commission, 2013 ND 72, 830 N.W.2d 535 (oil and gas)
    • Gadeco v. Industrial Commission, 2012 ND 33, 812 N.W.2d 405 (oil and gas)
    • Waldock v. Amber Harvest Corporation, 2012 ND 180, 820 N.W.2d 755 (probate)
    • Brigham Oil v. Lario Oil, 2011 ND 154, 801 N.W.2d 677 (oil and gas)
    • State v. Shoup, 2011 ND 103, 799 N.W.2d 406 (criminal)
    • Wisness v. Nodak Mutual Ins. Co., 2011 ND 197, 806 N.W.2d 146 (insurance)
    • Arnegard v. Cayko, 2010 ND 83, 782 N.W.2d 54 (tax)
    • Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co. v. Lynne, 2004 ND 166, 686 N.W.2d 118 (insurance)
    • Dixon v. McKenzie Co. Grazing Association, 2004 ND 40, 675 N.W.2d 414 (grazing rights)
    • Tarnavsky v. McKenzie Co. Grazing Association, 2003 ND 117, 665 N.W.2d (grazing rights)
    • Grynberg v. Dome Petroleum Corp., 1999 ND 167, 599 N.W.2d 261 (oil and gas)
    • Heggen v. Heggen, 541 N.W.2d 463 (N.D. 1996) (domestic relations)
    • Industrial Commission v. McKenzie Co. National Bank, 518 N.W.2d 174 (N.D. 1994)
    • Heggen v. Heggen, 488 N.W.2d 627 (N.D. 1992) (domestic relations)
    • McKenzie County v. Hodel, 467 N.W.2d 701 (ND 1991) (oil and gas)
    • Acoma Oil Corporation v. Wilson, 471 N.W.2d 476 (N.D. 1991) (oil and gas)
    • State v. Moran, 474 N.W.2d 77 (N.D. 1991) (criminal)
    • Heinen v. Heinen, 452 N.W.2d 331 (N.D. 1990) (domestic relations)
    • Texaco Inc. v. Industrial Commission, 448 N.W.2d 621 (ND 1989) (oil and gas)
    • Sivertson v. McLees, 407 N.W.2d 799 (N.D. 1987) (criminal)
    • State v. Dorendorf, 359 N.W.2d 115 (N.D. 1984) (criminal)
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Partner: Ross Sundeen

In addition to practicing law with Johnson & Sundeen, Ross is the Assistant Dunn County States Attorney.

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Partner: Ariston Johnson

Ariston joined JSLO in 2011 and has an excellent track record arguing appellate cases before the North Dakota Supreme Court.

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Partner: Aaron Weber

Aaron also worked as a wildland firefighter for four summers while in college. He received various certifications and was on one of the largest fires in New Mexico state history, the Las Conchas Fire.

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