Left to right: (Sitting) Justice Dale V. Sandstrom; Chief Justice Gerald W. VandeWalle; Justice William A. Neumann;
(Standing) Justice Carol Ronning Kapsner; Justice Mary Muehlen Maring
The North Dakota Supreme Court has five Justices. Each Justice is elected for a ten-year term in a nonpartisan election. The terms of the Justices are staggered so that only one judgeship is scheduled for election every two years. Each Justice must be a licensed attorney and a citizen of the United States and North Dakota.
One member of the Supreme Court is selected as Chief Justice by the Justices of the Supreme Court and the District Court Judges. The Chief Justice's term is for five years or until the Justice's elected term on the court expires. The Chief Justice's duties include presiding over Supreme Court conferences, representing the judiciary at official state functions, and serving as the administrative head of the judicial system.
The North Dakota Supreme Court is the highest court for the State of North Dakota. It has two major types of responsibilities: (1) adjudicative and (2) administrative.
In its adjudicative capacity, the Supreme Court is primarily an appellate court with jurisdiction to hear appeals from decisions of the district courts. All appeals from these courts must be ripe for review by the Court. In addition, the Court also has original jurisdiction authority and can issue such original and remedial writs as are necessary to exercise this authority.
The state constitution requires that a majority of the Justices is necessary before the Court can conduct its adjudicative business. In addition, the Court cannot declare a legislative enactment unconstitutional unless four of the Justices so decide. When the Court reverses, modifies, or affirms a trial court judgment or order, it is required to issue a written opinion stating the reasons for its decision. Any Justice disagreeing with the majority opinion may issue a dissenting opinion which explains the reasons for the disagreement with the majority.
In its administrative capacity, the Supreme Court has major responsibilities for ensuring the efficient and effective operation of all nonfederal courts in the state, maintaining high standards of judicial conduct, supervising the legal profession, and promulgating procedural rules which allow for the orderly and efficient transaction of judicial business. Within each area of administrative responsibility the Court has general rulemaking authority.
The Court carries out its administrative responsibilities with the assistance of various committees and boards. It exercises its authority to admit and license attorneys through the State Bar Board. Its supervision of legal ethics is exercised through the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court and its supervision of judicial conduct is exercised through the Judicial Conduct Commission. Continuing review and study of specific subject areas within its administrative jurisdiction is provided through five advisory committees - the Joint Procedure Committee, the Joint Committee on Attorney Standards, the Judiciary Standards Committee, the Court Services Administration Committee, and the Judicial Planning Committee. Other committees, such as, the Continuing Judicial Education Commission, Juvenile Policy Board, Personnel Policy Board, and the Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission, also provide valuable assistance to the Supreme Court in important administrative areas.
Administrative personnel of the Supreme Court also play a vital role in helping the court fulfill its administrative functions. The clerk of the Supreme Court supervises the calendaring and assignment of cases, oversees the distribution and publication of Supreme Court opinions and administrative rules and orders, and decides certain procedural motions filed with the Court. The state court administrator is responsible for the budgetary oversight of the judicial system, prepares statistical reports on the workload of the state's courts, provides judicial educational services, and performs such other administrative duties that are assigned by the Supreme Court. The state law librarian supervises the operation of the state law library.
New filings decreased by 8% , but the Supreme Court workload was augmented with an additional aministrative workload. In calendar year 2000, the Supreme Court's consideration of cases was replaced with consideration of rules and policies relating to clerks of the trial court becoming state employees, creating court-annexed alternative dispute resolution, establishing a process to handle complaints involving temperament; bias related to race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status; or other inappropriate behavior against judges and employees of the judicial system; and reviewing a number of other proposals to amend current procedural and administrative rules.
Decreases in filings in appeals involving the Workers Compensation Bureau, administrative agencies other than Job Service and the Department of Transportation, driving while under the influence or under suspension, employment issues, and paternity attributed to the year's overall filing decrease. However, there were significant increases in appeals involving termination of parental rights, which can likely be attributed to the Adoption and Safe Families Act, juvenile law, post-conviction relief and sexual offenses. Appeals in family related cases account for 24% of the Supreme Court's civil workload. Almost 50% of the Court's civil workload involves family law, administrative agency appeals, juvenile law and post-conviction relief. In 18% of all cases, one or more parties elected to represent themselves on appeal.
The most appeals originated from the South Central District, followed by the East Central, Southeast, Northeast, Northwest, Northeast Central and Southwest Districts.
In addition to authoring an average of 45 majority opinions each, another 23 concurring and/or dissenting opinions were separately authored by each justice. There were also 237 oral arguments calendared. Administratively, the Court's agenda was overflowing with the weekly motions and administrative conferences, committee work on both a state and national level, visits with students and others, and official appearances.
CASELOAD SYNOPSIS OF THE SUPREME COURT
FOR THE 2000 AND 1999 CALENDAR YEARS
|Transferred to Court of Appeals|
|New Filings Balance|
|Filings Carried Over From Previous Calendar Year||189||188*||+.53|
|Total Cases Docketed||537||569||-5.62|
|Cases Pending as of December 31|
*Incorrect on previous years' reports.
Affirmed & Modified
Reversed; Reversed & Remanded;
Reversed & Modified
Affirmed in Part & Reversed in
Affirmed by Summary Disposition
Certified Question Answered
|Dispositions by Opinion||206||57|
Dismissed After Conference
Original Jurisdiction- Denied
|Dispositions by Order||61||28|
|Total Dispositions for 2000||267||85|
CASELOAD OVERVIEW OF NORTH DAKOTA COURTS
|Level of Court||Filings|
2000 -------- 1999
2000 -------- 1999
The Court of Appeals was established in 1987 to assist the Supreme Court in managing its workload. In calendar year 2000, a 1999 case was transferred to the Court of Appeals together with two 2000 cases.
Judges serving on the panel of the Court of Appeals were: the Honorable James H. O'Keefe, Surrogate Judge, acting as Chief Presiding Judge; the Honorable Gordon O. Hoberg, Surrogate Judge; and the Honorable David W. Nelson, District Judge.
Since it was established, the Court of Appeals has written 69 opinions disposing of 73 cases.
Cases assigned to the Court of Appeals under Administrative Rule 27 may include family law issues; appeals from administrative agency decisions; appeals from trial court orders on motions for summary judgment; appeals involving cases originating under the Uniform Juvenile Court Act; and appeals from misdemeanor convictions.
Authorization for the Court of Appeals extends to January 1, 2004.
Statistical summaries of the Court of Appeals cases assignments and dispositions follow.
CASELOAD SYNOPSIS OF THE
COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE
2000 CALENDAR YEAR
|2000 Cases Assigned|
|1999 Cases Assigned|
|Total Cases Docketed|
|Cases Pending as of December 31|
|Affirmed by Summary Disposition||0||1|
|TOTAL 2000 DISPOSITIONS||0||1|