The North Dakota Judicial Conference was originally established as an arm of the judicial branch of state government in 1927. At that time, the organization was known as the North Dakota Judicial Council. Present statutory language covering the Judicial Conference is found in Chapter 27-15, NDCC.
There are currently sixty-eight members of the Judicial Conference. The conference consists of all Supreme Court justices and district court judges. Other members are the attorney general; the dean of the University of North Dakota School of Law; the clerk of the Supreme Court; two judges of the municipal courts, as appointed by the Municipal Judges Association; and five members of the North Dakota Bar Association who are appointed by the Bar Association. All surrogate judges, as appointed by the Supreme Court under section 27-17-03, NDCC, are also conference members.
The members of the conference serve during the time they occupy their respective official positions. The term of office of the two municipal judges is two years. The term of office for the five members of the bar is five years. Vacancies on the Judicial Conference are filled by the authority originally selecting the members.
The state court administrator serves as the executive secretary of the Judicial Conference.
The officers of the Judicial Conference consist of the chair and chair-elect, who are selected for a term of two years by the members of the conference. In addition, there is an executive committee consisting of the chair, chair-elect, a justice of the Supreme Court elected by the Supreme Court, and two district judges elected by the Association of District Judges.
Under North Dakota law, the Judicial Conference is required to meet twice each year. These meetings are usually held in June and November. Special meetings, however, may be called by the chair. While members of the Judicial Conference are not compensated for their services, they are reimbursed for their expenses while discharging their conference duties.
The Judicial Conference has four major duties:
1. Solicit, receive, and evaluate suggestions relating to the improvement of the administration of justice.
2. Consider and make recommendations to the Supreme Court for changes in rules, procedures, or any matter pertaining to the judicial system.
3. Coordinate continuing judicial education efforts for judges and support staff.
4. Establish methods for review of proposed legislation which may affect the operation of the judicial branch.
Several committees have been established to support the activities of the full conference. The committees and respective committee chairs during 2000 were as follows:
1. Program Planning Committee, vacant.
2. Committee on Legislation, Judge Burt L. Riskedahl, Chair.
3. Committee on Judicial Compensation, co-chairs Justice William Neumann and Judge Gary Holum.
4. Jury Standards Committee, Judge Robert Holte, Chair.
Committee membership results from appointment by the chair after consultation with the executive committee of the Judicial Conference. The bylaws provide that non-conference members can serve on either standing or special committees.
The officers and executive committee of the Judicial Conference during 2000 were as follows:
Justice Dale V. Sandstrom, Chair
Judge James Bekken, Chair-Elect
Judge Kirk Smith, Past Chair
Justice Mary Muehlen Maring, Executive Committee
Judge John Goodman, Executive Committee
Judge Robert Wefald, Executive Committee
William A. Neumann
Dale V. Sandstrom
Gerald W. VandeWalle, Chief Justice
Mary Muehlen Maring
Carol Ronning Kapsner
East Central District
*Norman J. Backes
Ralph R. Erickson
Lawrence A. Leclerc
Michael O. McGuire
Frank L. Racek
*Lee A. Christofferson
Laurie A. Fontaine
M. Richard Geiger
John C. McClintock, Jr.
Northeast Central District
*Lawrence E. Jahnke
Bruce E. Bohlman
Joel D. Medd
*Robert W. Holte
Glenn Dill III
Gary A. Holum
William W. McLees
Everett Nels Olson
Gerald H. Rustad
South Central District
*Benny A. Graff
Bruce B. Haskell
Donald L. Jorgensen
Burt L. Riskedahl
Thomas J. Schneider
James M. Vukelic
Robert O. Wefald
*John T. Paulson
James M. Bekken
Ronald E. Goodman
John E. Greenwood
Richard W. Grosz
*Allan L. Schmalenberger
Ronald L. Hilden
Maurice R. Hunke
Robert A. Keogh
Lamar K. Wells
William M. Beede
Eugene A. Burdick
Ralph J. Erickstad
Gerald G. Glaser
William F. Hodny
Gordon O. Hoberg
Jon R. Kerian
James H. O'Keefe
Wm. L. Paulson
Bert L. Wilson
Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp
Clerk of the Supreme Court Penny Miller
Dean of the UND School of Law W. Jeremy Davis
James S. Hill
Paul G. Kloster
Executive Secretary Keithe E. Nelson
*Presiding Judge 68 Members