The North Dakota judicial system consists of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, District Courts, and Municipal Courts. Together they form a judicial team responsible for providing an equal and fair system of justice to citizens of North Dakota.
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state of North Dakota. It is composed of five justices elected in a non-partisan election for ten-year terms. 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 judges of the district courts. The Chief Justice's term is five years. 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 has two major types of responsibilities--judging and administering.
In its judging capacity, the Supreme Court is primarily an appellate court with the responsibility of hearing appeals from decisions of the district courts and the Court of Appeals.
In its administrative capacity, the Supreme Court has major responsibility for ensuring the efficient and effective operation of all non-federal courts in the state, maintaining high standards of judicial conduct, supervising the legal profession, and adopting procedural rules which allow for the orderly and efficient transaction of judicial business.
The Clerk of the Supreme Court, appointed by the Chief Justice, supervises the scheduling 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.
Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals hears only the cases assigned to it by the Supreme Court. It is composed of three judges chosen from among active and retired district court judges, retired justices of the Supreme Court, and attorneys. Temporary court of appeals judges are assigned by the Supreme Court for up to one year. The Supreme Court assigns cases to the Court of Appeals from among those cases filed with it. Some years the Supreme Court assigns no cases to the Court of Appeals.
The district courts are the courts of general jurisdiction in North Dakota. They have original and general jurisdiction in all cases, including criminal felony and misdemeanor cases, and general jurisdiction for civil cases.
The district courts also serve as the juvenile courts in the state and have exclusive and original jurisdiction over any minor who is alleged to be unruly, delinquent, or deprived.
The state is divided into seven judicial districts. In each judicial district a presiding judge supervises court services of all courts in the district. There is a district court in each of the state's fifty-three counties. All of the judicial districts are served by a court administrator or administrative assistant who works with governmental agencies, budget, facilities, records management, personnel, and contract administration.
The office of district judge is an elected position filled every six years by non-partisan election held in the district in which the judge will serve.
Municipal courts in North Dakota have jurisdiction of all violations of municipal ordinances, with some exceptions. All municipal judges in North Dakota are part-time and are elected by the people for four-year terms.
Administration of the Judicial System
Ultimate responsibility for the efficient operation of the judicial system resides with the Supreme Court. The Constitution establishes the Supreme Court's administrative responsibility for the judicial system by designating the Chief Justice as the administrative head of the judicial system.
To help fulfill its administrative and supervisory responsibilities, the Supreme Court relies on the state court administrator, presiding judges, and various advisory committees, commissions, and boards.
The state court administrator, appointed by the Chief Justice, assists the Supreme Court in the preparation of the judicial budget, provides for judicial education, coordinates technical assistance to all levels of courts, plans for statewide judicial needs, and administers a personnel system.
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