Northwest Judicial District
The Honorable Robert W. Holte, Presiding Judge
Waldemar Kowitz, Administrative Assistant
District Court Judges: Robert W. Holte, Presiding Judge; Glenn Dill III; Gary Holum; William W. McLees, Jr.; David Nelson; Everett Nels Olson, and Gerald Rustad.
Judicial Referee: Connie S. Portscheller
Number of Counties in District: 6
District Court Chambers: Minot, Stanley, Watford City, and Williston.
During 1999, use of the Unified Court Information System (UCIS) for case management became routine throughout the district. Late in the year discussions were held on training to make more use of other capabilities of UCIS such as the ledger card module.
The retirement of Hon. Wallace Berning at the end of 1998 left the district with only 7 judges and one judicial referee. However we were able to keep up with the caseload, completing as many cases as were newly opened during 1999. The district reduced the cases carried over by 95.
On the technological front, the district has continued efforts to modernize its office equipment. We bought a new copier, a facsimile machine, three modular office setups and a laptop computer for use in traveling and on the bench. Ward County Juvenile Court installed a more compact and safer filing system. The Williston Chambers received sophisticated telephone equipment which tied into the courtroom's audio system to facilitate teleconferencing court hearings. We continued upgrading our courtrooms for ADA compliance by adding a new infra-red system to another courtroom in Ward County to help the hearing impaired. A new CD tower in the Ward County courthouse has allowed users of that law library to easily access American Law Reports through their desktop computers. Toward year's end we started experimenting with real-time court reporting and courtroom digital video cameras.
In 1999 the Ward County Bar Association established a committee to plan for the long range courthouse needs of the justice system in Ward County. The committee will consider how to make better use of the current facility as well as the possibility of new facilities.
The district's judicial referee handles formal juvenile hearings, child support hearings, and protection & restraining orders as well as small claims cases. Juvenile and support hearings are held in each of the four chambered cities, by the referee in Minot and by the chambered judges elsewhere in the district. New in 1999, juvenile indigent legal defense services are now being contracted to four of the district's attorneys.
The Juvenile Court staff provides many programs to area youths. Strategies such as the Youth Educational Shoplifting (YES) program, "Keys to Innervisions," anger management and stop smoking classes help young offenders examine their own actions and consequences. Also the staff is using parenting classes to help juveniles and dysfunctional families modify their behaviors. Juvenile Court officers have also been trained in the
"Balanced Approach," a statewide program which is more victim friendly and increases community safety. "Intensive Tracking" is being used to monitor "tougher" youths in the community. The juvenile officers are "brokers of services" not only to families, but also to the whole community.
The Minot Juvenile Court continues to divert smoking referrals with a total of 85 referred to the class and 67 completing a tobacco education class without a hearing. The Minot City Council, under a new ordinance, has now placed tobacco violations in Municipal Court. They have also entered into a new program with the North Central Human Services Children's Unit on runaway referrals. The program, called RAP (runaway alternative program), aims to get unruly kids and their parents into counseling. The Minot Juvenile Court is also in partnership with North Central on the "Keys to Innervisions" Program, a cognitive restructuring program.
The Minot Juvenile Court was awarded a Children's Services Coordinating Committee Grant for $5,000 to set up a program where youth can work for minimum wage to earn up to $250 to pay back outstanding restitution. The court, through our refinance dollars, will match that amount. The Minot staff has worked hard to draft the mission statement and necessary forms to track the program. The next step is to find businesses, other than community service sites, willing to take these youth for approximately 50 hours of job training/work and to provide the supervision needed to succeed. Our hope is that if an employer would commit to a youth the employer might gain a prospective employee while providing the youth with job experience.
The Ward County Detention Center was opened this year but the county is still struggling with the center's costs and choice of an administrator. Agencies involved with the facility consider it long overdue and much needed. As elsewhere across the state, Juvenile Courts in the NWJD have also been challenged with implementation of a new computer program, the Juvenile Court Management System (JCMS). When JCMS is fully functional we will have the ability to more closely track kids as they move within the state.
Still unsettled at year's end is the issue of radon levels in the basement of the Ward County Courthouse. According to state health department officials, periodic testing is needed to determine an average level of radon. The department has also suggested ways for the county to lessen radon levels.
The Ward County community service program shows a completion of 2485 hours this past year, down from 3769 hours in 1998. However, there was an increase in the number of youth referred to the Minot Juvenile Court for consumption/ possession of alcohol: 331 were referred in 1999 in comparison to 277 in 1998. Of those referred, 154 first time alcohol offenders attended the Minot Youth Diversion Program. Juvenile restitution collected districtwide held steady at about $31,850.
NORTHWEST JUDICIAL DISTRICT CASELOAD FOR CALENDAR YEARS 1998 AND 1999
|Case Filings/ Dispositions||1998|