Justice VandeWalle was born on August 15, 1933, and raised in Noonan, North Dakota. He attended the University of North Dakota and in 1955 received a bachelor of science degree in Commerce from the School of Business. In 1958 he received a juris doctor degree magna cum laude from the University of North Dakota School of Law.
He was admitted to the State Bar of North Dakota in July 1958 and accepted an appointment as Special Assistant Attorney General. In January 1975 he was appointed First Assistant Attorney General. During his twenty years in the Attorney General's office, Justice VandeWalle held several portfolios, including the education portfolio for elementary, secondary, and higher education, for most of that time; the North Dakota Industrial Commission oil and gas portfolio; and the State Retirement System portfolio.
On August 15, 1978, he was appointed to the Supreme Court. In November 1978 he was elected to serve an unexpired term, and was reelected to ten-year terms in 1984, 1994 and 2004. From July 1985 to July 1987, he served as the first chair of the North Dakota Judicial Conference.
He is a past co-chair of the ABA Bar Admissions Committee and past chair of the Federal-State Tribal Relations Committee of the Conference of Chief Justices. Justice VandeWalle is past chair of the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the American Bar Association, past President of the Conference of Chief Justices, past chair of the National Center for State Courts, and past chair of the National Center for State Court's Research Advisory Council.
Justice VandeWalle was elected Chief Justice effective January l, 1993; and reelected to successive five-year terms as Chief Justice effective 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015. He remains on the Court as Chief Justice, having served 36 years, 10 months, and 13 days as of June 27, 2015.