Dixie Knoebel, Trial Court Administrator for the Northwest Judicial District, hereby petitions the Supreme Court of the Great State of North Dakota to transfer the chambers of Northwest Judicial District Judgeship No. 7, presently occupied by Hon. Robert W. Holte, from Stanley, North Dakota, to Minot, North Dakota, effective 11:59 pm on December 31, 2006-----the end of Judge Holte's current term of office and his expected retirement date.
The Northwest Judicial District, Unit 4, consists of the counties of Burke, Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail, Ward, and Williams. Two (2) judges are chambered in Williston, North Dakota, one (1) judge is chambered in Stanley, North Dakota, and three (3) judges, plus one (1) referee, are chambered in Minot, North Dakota.
Master Calendar matters and trials are scheduled five days per week in Minot and Williston. Master Calendar cases are heard two days per month in Stanley, and one day per month each in Bowbells, Crosby, and Watford City, with additional days set aside for trials on an as-needed basis.
The following statistics provide information on 2000 census population and 2003 and 2004 total filings for each county in Unit 4 (case types include child support, civil, domestic relations, juvenile, mental health, probate, small claims, felony, misdemeanor, and traffic):
|COUNTY||2000 POPULATION||2003 FILINGS||2004 FILINGS|
The need for the transfer of Judgeship No. 7 from Stanley, North Dakota, to Minot, North Dakota, is demonstrated by the following:
 Sixty percent (60%) of the caseload in Unit 4 comes from Ward County. It is anticipated that the number of case filings will continue to rise in Ward County, particularly in the criminal arena, due in large part to the ever-present methamphetamine and alcohol problems. As the largest health care provider in the Northwest District, attendant medical malpractice suits skew the complexity and number of civil case filings. A surge in economic development is expected to also have an affect on civil filings in Ward County. To promote the efficient administration of justice, and in order to better serve the judicial needs of the citizens of this district/unit, it is imperative that a fourth judge be chambered in the Ward County Courthouse, Minot, North Dakota.
 According to the most recent version of the North Dakota Weighted Caseload Study (dated April 5, 2005), a judgeship shortage of .74 FTE presently exists in the Northwest Judicial District/Unit 4. This shortage is consistent with recent weighted caseload studies for this district/unit. Relocation of Judgeship No. 7 to Minot will help address this shortage by increasing the efficiency of that judgeship.
 In response to the historical shortage of district judges in this district/unit, and recognizing that sixty percent (60%) of the district/unit's caseload comes from Ward County, a criminal-civil judge rotation has been implemented in Ward County-----with two judges serving in the criminal division for a period of eighteen (18) months, and two judges serving in the civil division for a period of eighteen (18) months. Although Judge Holte is chambered in Stanley, he is one of the four judges who is involved in this rotation on a regular basis-----making him an integral part of the justice system in Ward County. Relocation of Judgeship No. 7 to Minot will help ensure the efficacy of that judgeship by having the same chambered where the majority of the workload is found.
 Although the current Ward County case management plan requires regular participation from the "Stanley" judge, it is not a model of efficiency for a judge chambered outside of Minot to travel to Minot on a regular basis.
On average, Judge Holte spends three (3) days out of every work week in Minot-----which means he is "on the road" approximately 15,000 miles every year. This is time which could be much better spent in the judge's office or in the courtroom. Judge Holte has the use of a state car, and generally his secretary/recorder accompanies him when he has court proceedings scheduled in Minot. On those days when he does not make the trip to Minot, but his secretary/recorder is required to be there, she is reimbursed for mileage and meals. She also accrues overtime hours, which may include driving and riding time. In addition to enhancing the efficacy of this judgeship, relocation of the same to Minot will increase the productivity of the secretary/recorder assigned to this judge.
 A very high percentage of the attorneys in Unit 4 practice in the counties of Ward and Williams. Ward County has a resident bar of 90 attorneys, while 40 attorneys reside in Williams County. The judges (and judicial referee) chambered in Minot and Stanley handle nearly all of the caseload in Ward County, while the judges chambered in Williston handle nearly all of the caseload in Williams County. Responsibility for handling the balance of the caseload is as follows: The "Minot" judges, along with the "Stanley" judge, handle all matters in Burke County and all non-Master Calendar matters in Mountrail County. The "Williston" judges handle all matters in McKenzie County and Divide County, as well as all Master Calendar matters in Mountrail County.
 The Ward County Courthouse is a modern, air conditioned facility with two large, jury-capable courtrooms. One of these courtrooms offers videoconferencing capabilities for conducting prisoner appearances from the Ward County Jail, and for receiving expert witness testimony on a remote basis. There are also three smaller courtrooms and a juvenile hearing room. Also housed in the courthouse are the Ward County State's Attorney's office and the Ward County Juvenile Supervisor and staff. A modern Class I jail with 86 beds is connected to the courthouse by an enclosed crosswalk. The Ward County Commission has recently purchased land across the street from the courthouse, and has engaged architectural services to design plans for the construction of a new county office building. With the transfer of certain county offices to the new facility, more space will be available to the district court, juvenile court and the Ward County Jail in the existing building.
 As things presently stand, the Ward County Courthouse provides permanent chambers and office space for three judges and their secretary/recorders or court reporters. A fourth area-----a combination judge's office, law clerk's office and secretarial space-----is available for use by visiting judges, including Judge Holte. In 2004, Ward County applied for and received a facilities grant through the Court Facilities Improvement Program. The grant provided funds to remodel an office on the third floor of the courthouse (southeast corner) into a fourth judge's chamber and secretary/recorder's office. That remodeling is now complete. This space will house Judge Holte and his secretary/recorder until his retirement. Then, if the transfer of this judgeship is approved, Judge Holte's successor will move in on a full-time basis, effective January 1. 2007. The chambers presently occupied by Judge Holte will continue to be used by the district's law clerk and visiting judges.
 Ward County Court experiences approximately 120 demands for change of judge every year. Case reassignment is less cumbersome if a judge chambered in the same building is available to take the assignment. Reassignment of a case to a judge chambered outside the county in which the case is venued can have a negative impact in emergency situations-----situations in which immediate action is required and the newly-assigned judge is a significant distance away. A demand for change of judge can increase the likelihood of scheduling gaps if a local judge is unavailable and can be deleterious to a structured case management system.
 As indicated above, Judge Holte comes to Minot on a fairly regular basis. However, by virtue of being chambered in Stanley, he is unavailable to cover evening and weekend work in Ward County-----matters such as the execution of search warrants, arrest warrants, approval of petitions for involuntary commitment, etc.-----and this puts a significant burden on the other three judges who are chambered in Minot. Along these lines, Ward County has a very active Narcotics Drug Force, and relies upon judges to review applications for search warrants and arrest warrants on short notice. District judges sign approximately 1300 criminal arrest warrants every year in Ward County.
 Ward County was one of only six counties in North Dakota that experienced an increase in population in the 1990's. That increase could well continue through the 2000's.
The primary employers in the Minot area are Trinity Health (2700 employees), Minot Air Force Base (5000 personnel and 6000 dependents) and Minot State University (4000 students).
Minot serves as a regional trade center for northwest North Dakota, areas of eastern Montana, and some communities in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The MAGIC Fund (Minot Area Growth by Investment and Cooperation) provides financing incentives to businesses that wish to expand or locate in the greater Minot area. The NAWS (Northwest Area Water Supply), a $115 million project, continues its expansion into Minot, providing a more inviting home for potential business and industry, and a stronger local economy. A "Renaissance Zone" revitalization project has begun, consisting of twenty-three (23) blocks located in Minot's old downtown commercial and residential area. Minot is also the hub of three federal highways and three major railroad lines. As such, it is slated to become a multi-modal facility, allowing for companies to transfer cargo from one shipping method, such as truck containers on trains, to another, such as trucks or air cargo. Also, construction just began in August 2005 on a $50 million biodiesel manufacturing plant located in Minot, which will be the largest biodiesel refinery in North America.
 N.D.C.C. 27-05-08(1) requires thirty percent (30%) of the state's trial judges to be chambered in cities with a population of less than 10,000. The granting of this Petition will not cause that percentage to drop below thirty percent (30%).
 North Dakota's Judicial Planning Committee issued recommendations including IV. Administrative and Operational Support/Structure B which states "...(a)n appropriate administrative organization should...maximize the ability of judges to provide adequate and timely judicial services...". In this instance, maximizing a judge's ability to provide judicial services necessitates the transfer of this judgeship from Stanley, North Dakota, to Minot, North Dakota.
Dated at Minot, North Dakota, this 6th day of September, 2005.
Dixie K. Knoebel
Trial Court Administrator - Unit 4