Judge Allan Schmalenberger, Chair
Judge John Greenwood
Judge William McLees
Judge Debbie Kleven
Judge Ralph Erickson
Sherry Mills Moore
Lisa McEvers for Birch Burdick
Judge Benny Graff
Judge John McClintock
The minutes of the June 1, 2001, meeting were approved as distributed.
Juvenile Court Case Management Procedures
Greg Wallace reviewed juvenile court case management procedures that are being proposed. He indicated that until the present time there has been no consistent process for monitoring juvenile proceedings. The issue becomes more critical with a new law prescribing additional time standards for court appearances for juveniles in shelter care. In the past, many juvenile courts would not file petitions until they were able to get the hearing before the court within the allowed 30 days. This meant that in some circumstances juveniles were held outside the home for periods in excess of 30 days due to the need that the hearing must be held within 30 days of the filing of the petition. This has now been changed in the Adoption and Safe Families Act and for the first time standards for case management are being espoused. By using UCIS as the vehicle to track all cases, all management reports will be generated in the same fashion using the process that judges and administrative personnel are comfortable with.
One issue that needs to be addressed is the lack of access by clients to defense counsel. The East Central and Northeast Central districts currently use separate contracts to eliminate this problem. Mr. Wallace indicated that other districts should look at this strategy. An issue that has arisen is lack of access to judge time. While this concern appears to be more anecdotal, procedures need to be developed to assure there are judicial resources available to hear juvenile cases within the time standards. A third issue is that in rural areas it is difficult in many counties to get state's attorneys' services. As a result, juvenile court personnel are serving documents and some are even preparing petitions, matters that need to be discontinued and carried out by individuals other than court employees. He indicated that service of process is a significant issue. If courts use an initial appearance process as has been implemented in the East Central and Southwest judicial districts, the matter of service becomes much less problematic. That is, after the first personal service all subsequent service is done by first class mail. He indicated the last problem is the granting of continuances. With no firm continuance policy in writing, cases are delayed. This is an issue in a number of jurisdictions.
Mr. Wallace indicated that the proposed docket currency time standards are on the way to the Supreme Court for adoption. He indicated there were very few comments submitted. He anticipated they would be adopted.
Mr. Wallace then discussed the implementation of the juvenile case management model that has been adopted in the East Central district. He indicated Judge Racek had visited with the judges of the Northwest district regarding the referee management plan that has been implemented in Fargo. He indicated the proposal was well received. The Southwest judicial district has adopted the steps as identified in the East Central district juvenile case management plan and they appear to be working well.
In the Northeast Central judicial district, scheduling has been moved to a secretary in juvenile court, but more stringent timeframes are being adhered to.
Judge Kleven indicated in the Northeast Central district they have gone to block scheduling detention hearings every day. She indicated this process works well. Everyone knows when the hearings are to be set and whatever juveniles are in detention are heard all at one time. She did indicate the referees do need a petition on the juvenile at the time of the detention hearing and that is being provided by the state's attorney's office.
Mr. Wallace indicated he believes there is a need for a caseflow management committee in each judicial district to monitor and audit case processing time standards and procedures that are being recommended. In concert with the need for standard monitoring and auditing procedures, Doug Johnson indicated that a directive needs to be sent by the State Court Administrator's Office to all districts indicating what procedures are to be followed for data entry. This memorandum needs to get out immediately if case management procedures are to be implemented effective December 1, 2001, as suggested by Mr. Wallace.
Ted Gladden raised the issue of case assignments, indicating that cases are assigned to judges and work is assigned to referees. This means that all cases currently pull to a district judge's calendar. After discussion, Mr. Gladden indicated that he will talk with staff to see if a management report can be designed so pending actions assigned to the referees can pull to their calendar. There still needs to be a process whereby the judges provide overall supervision and control of the work that is assigned to the referees.
Judge Erickson indicated we need to look at uniform scheduling timelines statewide. He indicated the only way for this to be achieved is through a central scheduling process in the judicial districts. There was considerable discussion around the variation of scheduling practices in the state. Judge Schmalenberger indicated that everyone needs to make changes and these changes need to be supported by the judges and personnel if they are to be effective.
Judge Erickson indicated the philosophy should be "touch it once, schedule it all". Personnel trained and with the expertise to handle the complexities and vagaries of case scheduling need to work with the judges to ensure cases are being heard and disposed of within timeframes established by the Supreme Court.
In conclusion, Mr. Wallace was asked to come back at the next meeting of the Caseflow Management Committee and discuss how each judicial district is doing on the implementation of the time standards that have been approved. He will discuss other administrative activities that need to be reviewed and the direction needed to improve service of process and case management within the juvenile courts.
Rule 8.8 Discussion
Ted Gladden provided an overview of what has occurred relating to the implementation of North Dakota Rule of Court 8.8. He distributed a copy of the guidelines and forms that are used in the South Central judicial district. He indicated there had been a meeting of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) district coordinators about three weeks ago. At the meeting, Christine Hogan of the State Bar Association provided an overview of Rule 8.8 and its implications.
Doug Johnson reviewed the forms and procedures for monitoring cases under Rule 8.8 in the South Central judicial district.
Becky Thiem, Chair of the Joint Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, discussed activities of that Committee. She indicated that their role is to review and suggest operational changes to make the rule work. The current process for the approval of ADR training courses needs to be reviewed with the State Court Administrator's Office. She encouraged coordination between the Caseflow Management Committee and the Bar Association's ADR Committee and indicated there needs to be an ongoing process of evaluation of how the implementation of Rule 8.8 is occurring statewide. She requested that Ted Gladden meet with her to discuss issues of the maintenance of the ADR roster that have arisen. Issues relating to people indicating specialty areas need to be reviewed.
There was discussion that Rule 8.8 needs to be part of a bigger process. That is, a part of a caseflow management process and not just a free standing rule. Mr. Gladden indicated he would provide an update at the next meeting regarding implementation of Rule 8.8 in each judicial district. He stated that each of the district coordinators are to provide a report by the end of December outlining what their districtwide plan is for the implementation of Rule 8.8.
There was consensus that some process needs to be developed for the courts to help needy people involved in family law cases. There was no clear sense of how this should be accomplished, but there was recognition that it is a problem in the family law area.
Criminal Case Counting
Ted Gladden outlined that there are differences in how criminal cases are filed. The implications are that in some counties one case will have multiple counts within the case, while other counties are opening a separate case file with every count. This means that separate complaints are being filed and all cases are filed separately. Judge Erickson indicated that maybe if we do not count misdemeanors we could avoid the issue and just count felonies. There was discussion that an alternative approach would be to count defendants, not cases or counts. The suggestion was advanced that we should not count bad checks as part of the process. After further discussion, Mr. Gladden was asked to gather data for the next meeting that would count misdemeanant defendants. The guideline to be used will be for all cases with one defendant's name that are filed within 90 days, will be counted for one defendant. This will ensure that multiple check cases are only counted once.
Civil Case Management
Judge Schmalenberger circulated a copy of a proposed civil case management process and asked members to review it for the next meeting and be in a position to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal.
The meeting was adjourned.
The tentative meeting schedule for 2002 is as follows: Friday, March 22; Friday, June 28; Friday, September 27; and Friday, November 22.