In the North Dakota judicial system, a system of committees has been established to develop new ideas and evaluate proposals for improving public services. These advisory committees include citizen members, legislators, lawyers, and judges. The activities of these advisory committees are summarized here:
Judicial Planning Committee
The Judicial Planning Committee is chaired by Justice William A. Neumann. This Committee provides planning guidance for the short term (two years), intermediate term (10 years), and the future (20 years). Actions that can improve the judiciary and the service provided are identified, planned, and then referred to judicial leaders and other standing committees for resolution.
Joint Procedure Committee
The Joint Procedure Committee is the standing committee of the Supreme Court responsible for proposing adoption, amendment, or repeal of rules of civil procedure, rules of criminal procedure, rules of appellate procedure, rules of evidence, rules of court, and specialized court procedure. Justice Dale V. Sandstrom chairs the committee. The committee membership of 10 judges and 10 attorneys is appointed by the Supreme Court, except for one liaison member appointed by the State Bar Association.
Joint Committee on Attorney Standards
The Joint Committee on Attorney Standards was established following adoption of Administrative Rule 38 by the Supreme Court. The Committee, chaired during 2000 by Judge Ralph R. Erickson, Fargo, is comprised of members appointed by the Chief Justice and the Board of Governors of the State Bar Association. During 2000, the Committee undertook a review of issues related to client access to files, lawyer advertising, and multi-disciplinary practice. This review resulted in proposed rules submitted to the Supreme Court which address a variety of issues related to lawyer advertising, client files, papers, and property, and the lawyer discipline process.
Judiciary Standards Committee
The Judiciary Standards Committee, chaired by Brian Neugebauer of West Fargo, studies and reviews all rules relating to the supervision of the judiciary, including judicial discipline, judicial ethics, and the judicial nominating process.
Court Services Administration Committee
The Court Services Administration Committee, chaired by William A. Strutz, Bismarck, is responsible for the study and review of all rules and orders relating to the administrative supervision of the judicial system. The Committee studied implementation of 1999 legislation providing for state funding of clerk of district court services and submitted to the Supreme Court a proposed rule on clerk duties and appointment. During 2000, the Committee began study of issues related to pro se litigation in the courts.
Committee on Tribal and State Court Affairs
The Committee on Tribal and State Court Affairs was established following adoption of Administrative Rule 37 by the Supreme Court. The Committee, chaired by former Chief Justice Ralph J. Erickstad, is comprised of tribal and state court judges, tribal and state court support services representatives, and public members. It is intended to provide a vehicle for expanding awareness about the operation of tribal and state court systems; identifying and discussing issues regarding court practices, procedures, and administration which are of common concern to members of the two court systems; and for cultivating mutual respect for, and cooperation between, tribal and state courts.
Commission on Judicial Education
The Continuing Judicial Education Commission was established following adoption of Administrative Rule 36 by the Supreme Court. The commission is chaired by Judge Donald L. Jorgensen, Bismarck, and is comprised of the chief justice, state and municipal court judges, a representative from the law school, juvenile court and court support staff for the courts of record. The commission develops policies and procedures concerning the implementation of a statewide continuing judicial education program for judges and personnel of the unified judicial system.
In 2000, the Commission, with the assistance of the supreme court justices, district court judges, and employees, developed a long-range strategic plan for judicial education. In part, this plan identifies specific long and short-term training needs for all judges and employees of the North Dakota judiciary. The plan will allow the Commission to focus on providing quality education that meets the direct needs of the judiciary and its employees. The plan will be revisited once each biennium to ensure it remains current with the educational needs of the judiciary.
Personnel Policy Board
The Personnel Policy Board was established following adoption of Administrative Policy 106 by the Supreme Court. The board is chaired by Penny Miller, Clerk of the Supreme Court, and is comprised of a supreme court justice and district court judges, supreme court department heads, and employees of the supreme and district courts. The board is tasked with the responsibility of reviewing and implementing the personnel system and developing a salary administration plan for the judiciary. In 2000 the board's primary focus centered around the policy issues related to the transition of county to state funded clerks of district court and their employees.
North Dakota Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission
The Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission, chaired by Judge Debbie Kleven, Grand Forks, identifies and reviews issues concerning the operation of the indigent defense contract system. During 2000, the Commission began review and revisions of the Commission's Indigent Defense Procedures and Guidelines. The Commission also met with a representative of the Spangenberg Group, a national consulting firm specializing in indigent defense services, to assess possible ways of improving North Dakota's indigent defense contract systems.
Juvenile Policy Board
The Juvenile Policy Board, chaired by Judge Norman Backes, Fargo, continues to oversee the implementation of Balanced and Restorative Justice.
Under this system, juvenile courts address public safety, accountability of the offender to the victim and society, and the competency development of juveniles who come in contact with the court. Research indicates that courts which "balance" these approaches with juveniles are most effective in reducing juvenile recidivism.
Accountability means holding the offender accountable to their victim and to the community. Accountability to the victim has traditionally meant collecting restitution for the victim. Annually, the juvenile courts collect about $100,000. The ability to collect restitution, enhanced in recent years by the legislature, includes such options as reducing the restitution amount to a judgment when the child turns 18. This keeps the obligation to pay for damages in place for at least ten years. Under Balanced and Restorative Justice, however, the courts attempt to involve the victim more fully.
The courts have contracted with a private provider to hold "juvenile accountability conferences". Through these conferences, victims are given the opportunity to face offenders and explain to the offender the true consequences of their actions and to have input on the consequences of their actions. This program has been shown to be very beneficial to victims and to have a serious impact on offenders.
In several communities, the courts, through local funding, have established restitution funds. Under this program, victims are paid damages immediately and the offender pays the restitution over time, or completes community service hours equivalent to the damages paid out.
Accountability to the community means repaying the community for harm caused. A principle of restorative justice is that any crime hurts the peace and security of the community and that offenders have an obligation to rectify that harm. In response, all of the courts are involved in community service projects. Statewide, the courts are attempting to establish community service projects which are meaningful to both the community and to the juvenile. For example, the Williston juvenile court established a community garden where offenders plant, weed, and maintain a community garden. The produce is sold with profits going to the local victim restitution fund. The Valley City juvenile court undertook a project to have offenders plant trees and shrubs in the local parks. Much of the value of these programs involves the mentoring relationship of the supervisor.
The Balanced and Restorative Justice model also emphasizes the importance of building on the competency of the offender. That is, most, if not all, offenders need to improve in such skills as decision making and anger management.
The courts have emphasized a program known as "Keys to Innervisions". This program emphasizes that the juvenile accept responsibility for their behavior, understand that they have the power to change their behavior, and provide skills towards changing their behavior.
Community safety also involves controlling the whereabouts of certain offenders while they are in the community. This may mean electronic monitoring, drug and alcohol screening, and face-to-face intensive tracking. At times, it involves removal from the community to a correctional or residential setting.
Council of Presiding Judges
The Council of Presiding Judges is a policy making body charged with the responsibility to provide uniform and efficient delivery of administrative support to the trial courts. The council consists of the presiding judge of each judicial district and the chief justice of the supreme court as the presiding officer of the council. Duties of the council include the responsibility to develop administrative policies for the trial courts and provide the mechanism to ensure implementation. The Council of Presiding Judges meets at the call of the chair.
Court Technology Committee
The Court Technology Committee, chaired by Judge Allan Schmalenberger, Dickinson, is comprised of people representing the supreme court, district courts, clerks of court, and state court administrator's office. The committee is responsible for general oversight and direction of technology within the Judicial Branch.
Despite many predictions to the contrary, the year 2000, or Y2K as it came to be known, arrived without significant technology issues. This is due in part, to extensive preparation.
Many technology efforts throughout 2000 were focused on integration and simplifying support. Projects were included which help integrate information systems and data sharing. Examples of efforts for 2000 include Windows NT network restructuring to enable better management of the network and email; integration of municipal courts using the Unified Court Information System (UCIS); automation of data flow to other state government entities; and efforts to consolidate the case management systems used by the trial courts.
Additionally, the Court Technology Committee was involved in an interactive television pilot project which continues to explore the use of interactive television to enhance the delivery of judicial services to remote locations of North Dakota.
One project which started in 1999 and still continues today is the state assumption of costs for clerk of court services. Throughout 2000, preparations have been ongoing to ensure a smooth transition.
As mandated by legislation, an Information Technology Plan (IT Plan) was created and submitted. The IT plan provides technical and budgetary planning for the Judicial Branch for the next several years.
Gender Fairness Implementation Committee
The Gender Fairness Implementation Committee, chaired by Justice Mary Muehlen Maring, was established by Supreme Court Administrative Order 7 to oversee implementation of the recommendations of the Supreme Court's Commission on Gender Fairness in the Courts. It is further charged with monitoring the progress of the judicial branch in eliminating gender bias in the courts. During 2000, the Committee assisted in coordinating several education programs concerning bias in the courts. The Committee also submitted to the Supreme Court a proposed informal complaint procedure for responding to bias-related complaints.
Public Trust and Confidence Implementation Committee
The Public Trust and Confidence Implementation Committee, chaired by Justice William A. Neumann, was established by Supreme Court Administrative Order 12 to oversee implementation of recommendations set out in the Final Report of the Committee on Public Trust and Confidence. The Final Report identified numerous strategies for addressing a broad range of issues and perceptions affecting public trust and confidence in North Dakota's courts. In November 2000, the Implementation Committee began the work of assessing the various recommended strategies and how implementation of the strategies could best be achieved.
Trial Court Legal Research Assistance Committee
The Trial Court Legal Research Assistance Committee, chaired by Judge David Nelson, Williston, was created in 1999. The committee provides technical assistance and management assistance to trial courts in the state. During 2000, the committee formulated minimum library standards for trial courts, made group purchases of widely held publications, worked on creating a resource book for judges, and began a comparison of CALR providers.
Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee
The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, chaired by District Judge Lee A. Christofferson, Devils Lake, provides advisory services for judges relating to judicial ethics issues. The Committee has provided all judges with an ethics manual and responds to inquiries by judges on ethics questions. The Committee also documents responses for use by all members of the judiciary.
Jury Standards Committee
The Jury Standards Committee, chaired by District Judge Robert Holte, Stanley, studies and oversees the operation of North Dakota's jury system.