|Robert W. Holte, Presiding Judge of the Northwest|
|PETITION TO CHANGE THE DESIGNATION OF JUDGESHIP NO. 8 FROM WATFORD CITY IN MCKENZIE COUNTY, NORTH DAKOTA, TO MINOT IN WARD COUNTY, |
Having consulted with the judges and referee of the district, ROBERT W. HOLTE, Presiding Judge of the Northwest Judicial District, petitions the North Dakota Supreme Court pursuant to North Dakota Supreme Court Administrative Rule 7.1 to change the designation of the Chambers of Judgeship No. 8 from Watford City to Minot, North Dakota.
The loss of Judgeship No. 6 in the City of Minot resulted in Ward County having approximately sixty percent (60%) of the district's population and caseload and being left with only one-third (1/3) of the district's chambered judges. The granting of this Petition would increase the number of the district's judges chambered in Ward County to fifty percent (50%).
Petitioner alleges such chamber relocation is necessary for the effective judicial administration in the Northwest Judicial District.
In its decision on Judgeship No. 6, the Supreme Court said:
"We recognize that travel in both the Northwest and Southeast Judicial Districts is greater than would be required if the distribution of judges reflected the distribution of the population. In each district, travel would be reduced by the relocation of one chambers within the district. In addition we recognize the loss of Judgeship No. 6 in Minot would have a greater impact on the district than the loss of a judgeship in another location simply because the largest population resides in Minot. However we do not consider at this time the transfer of chambers under N. D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 7. 1, and we are mindful of the directive of subsection 1 of § 27-05-08, N.D.C.C., which results in inefficiencies relating to travel."
In the Matter of the Judicial Vacancy in District Judgeship No. 6, 2001 ND 199, ¶ 26, 637 NW.2d 3.
In reference to N.D.C.C. § 27-05-08, a transfer of Judgeship No. 8 from Watford City, a city of less than 10,000 in population, to Minot, a city of more than 10,000 in population, would not adversely affect the required rural / urban percentages. With the chamber in Watford City, the existing ratio is 27 / 42 or sixty-four percent (64%). With a transfer of the chamber to Minot, the ratio would be 29 / 42 or sixty-seven percent (67%).
In expressing support for this request, the district's judges and referee join with Petitioner in recommending that if such petition be granted, that the effective date for such change in chamber designation be July 1, 2002, and that the affected judge, Honorable William W. McLees, be reimbursed for necessary and reasonable relocation costs for himself and his family.
WHEREFORE, the undersigned as Presiding Judge of the Northwest Judicial District, petitioner, recommends and requests that:
1. The North Dakota Supreme Court, after due notice and such procedures under N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 7.1 as it directs, order the redesignation and transfer of the Chambers of Northwest Judicial District Judgeship No. 8 from Watford City in McKenzie County to the City of Minot in Ward County, North Dakota.
2. The Court authorize and direct reimbursement of all reasonable costs and expenses of the resident judge and his family so transferred.
Dated this 14th day of February, 2002,
Robert W. Holte, Presiding Judge
Northwest Judicial District
REPORT TO ACCOMPANY PETITION TO CHANGE THE DESIGNATION OF A RESIDENT DISTRICT COURT JUDGESHIP CHAMBERS:
Northwest Judicial District has petitioned the Supreme Court to move Judgeship Number 8 of the district from its present chambered location in Watford City to be chambered in Minot, effective July 1, 2002.
This report is submitted per Administrative Rule 7.1 in support of that petition. Since many of the criteria in section 4 of Rule 7.1 were recently addressed in the district's Report per Notice of Consultation, October 23, 2001 (concerning Chambers Number 6 in Minot), this report will only revisit some of the section 4 criteria.
Criteria 4a: Four year caseload history (civil, criminal, and formal juvenile)
The following statistics come from the "Filed and Reopened" report in the Unified Court Information System (UCIS). The number of criminal, civil and juvenile counts filed or reopened for the district, for Ward County, and the percentage of Ward County of the district:
|NW Judicial District||6,132||6,278||7,172||7,368|
Criteria 4b: Number and location of attorneys
Per the "2001 Directory of North Dakota Licensed Lawyers" the district has 168 licensed lawyers. Of these 96 reside in Ward County and 94 in Minot (56 % of the district).
Criteria 4e (1): Size of available space for judges and court personnel
The Ward County courthouse has room on the third floor for four judges chambers along with secretarial / reporter support. After the Clerk of District Court moves into a single office area on the 2nd floor, third floor space will also be available for the district administrative offices and for the law clerk. Two jury courtrooms and three hearing rooms are also available. There is presently only one jury deliberation room.
Criteria 4f: Proximity to detention facilities
The Ward County Detention Center is located just across a driveway / parking lot from the courthouse. The two buildings are connected by a skywalk.
Criteria 4i: Impact on travel time
As documented in the October 23 report concerning Judgeship Number 6 in Ward County (Criteria 1), equity in the number of residents per judge across the state would require that Ward County have 4.5 judicial FTEs. The transfer of Chambers Number 6 to Fargo leaves Ward County with only two judges and a referee. Providing the judicial services of another 1.5 judges has required a great amount of travel for the other four district judges. This has particularly impacted Judge McLees who is chambered in Watford City. He has to drive 123 miles, each way, to assist with the Minot caseload.
Transferring Judgeship Number 8 from Watford City to Minot will reduce, but not eliminate, the extra travel required for Minot cases. The two judges chambered in Williston will also have to travel more often to Watford City (46 miles one way) and Judge Holte, chambered in Stanley, will need to travel more often to Williston (72 miles one way).
Criteria 4j: Population distribution (per the year 2000 census):
Ward County has about 62% of the district population and only 43% of the seven judicial FTEs.
[Report dated February 15, 2002]