Present: Chief Justice Gerald W. VandeWalle, Chair Judge Sonya Clapp Judge Donovan Foughty Judge Gail Hagerty Judge William Herauf Maureen Holman Judge James Hovey for Judge John Paulson Justice Mary Muehlen Maring Judge Steven McCullough Judge Joel Medd Judge William McLees Judge Frank Racek Judge Bruce Romanick
Staff: Sally Holewa
Others Present: Louie Hentzen Jim Ganje Justice Carol Ronning Kapsner Rod Olson Carolyn Probst Donna Wunderlich Don Wolf Larry Zubke
Minutes: Renee Barnaby
Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle called the meeting to order.
Minutes It was moved by Judge Herauf, seconded by Judge Foughty, to approve the July 20, 2012
minutes. Maureen Holman indicated she was absent from the meeting. With the correction, the
District Court Budget Don Wolf said the total district court budget is $81,524,408, which is an increase of 11.4% or
$8.3 million compared to the 2011-13 budget. The amount includes a 5% salary increase for the
current judges but does not include any increases for state employees. Per legislative guidelines
one-time funding of $876,480 (WAPC/weighted caseload study and capital assets) needs to be
removed from the total appropriation to arrive at the base budget of $72,303,327. If employees
were to receive a 3%/3% increase, it would add another 5% to the budget.
The Administrative Council approved 29 new FTE positions (18 deputy clerks, 1 law clerk, 4
juvenile court officers, 2 juvenile court secretaries, and 4 technology coordinators. The 4
technology coordinators and 2 juvenile court secretaries are currently temporary employees). In
addition, 2 temporary guardian ad litem quality assurance positions are being requested as part of
the budget. The cost of these two positions is $198,000. Seventy-five percent or $148,500 is
funded with the federal court improvement basic grant and 25% is the general fund match.
Under the operating expenses, there is an increase in technology costs of $790,907 (maintenance
agreements and IT equipment); payments to contract counties for clerk services of $1,276,250
(increase in overall clerk need and salaries); furniture and related operating costs for the new
positions of $112,530; operating budget for the guardian ad item program of $327,237 (includes
the operating costs for the 2 new positions); juvenile services contracts of $247,508 (intensive in-home programs and restorative justice program); juvenile drug court of $165,350 (expansion of
juvenile drug court in Jamestown); and one-time funding for JCMS replacement study, disaster
recovery study, and CJIS publisher study of $324,850.
In response to a question asking what the CJIS publisher study is, Sally Holewa replied it is also
known as the Sub-Pub-Hub. She said basically, it will standardize how we send and receive
information so that anyone who wants our information would have to write their interface so that
it matches our requirements. This will allow us to do realtime data exchange. Larry Zubke added
that for years we have had agencies asking for dispositional data, etc., and we give it to them
manually. This will, as cases are initiated or disposed of, be sending that data electronically to the
CJIS hub. State agencies that are entitled to that information can subscribe. Ms. Holewa said this
along with the attorney general’s project are basically the first steps to getting electronic filing to
flow from law enforcement to state’s attorney to the courts and back again. They are doing
something similar with the STARS program.
Judge Racek said with regard to the CJIS project, he has two concerns. One, it is optional so
parties are not required to register, and two, it is not broad enough to address anything that will
result in a savings to the court. As a result, his principle concern is not the money but how much
time our IT staff is going to dedicate to the project when other projects would provide more relief
to our employees.
In response to a question from Mr. Zubke asking if they need the actual document or the data that
is on the document, Judge Racek replied it is something that needs to be assessed. Mr. Zubke
said the next item for this project is to try to capture those data elements that may be on the
reports or forms to determine if we can send them. Judge Racek said it seems we are doing for
them what saves them time first and doing for us what saves us time last and we are using our
staff to do it.
Justice Maring stated there is a uniform act that is being proposed in the legislature wherein the
Legislative Council will start publishing the statutes electronically. She asked what software
would be needed if the court decides to do the same with their opinions. Mr. Zubke responded
what we are doing today is the equivalent of what the Legislative Council is asking. It is just a
question of whether or not we want to do it and what we want to declare as the official record.
Right now, the paper documents are the official record. He said nothing has been budgeted.
Justice Maring said with regard to the education budget, currently the court administrators and
assistant court administrators can attend one out-of-state educational program per biennium. This
limits them in the sense that they can only go once every two years, which does not allow them to
become involved in their national organization. She suggested increasing the budget so the seven
administrators could attend an educational program every year.
It was moved by Justice Maring, seconded by Judge Foughty, to increase the district court
budget so that the court administrators and the assistant court administrators could attend
an out-of-state educational program every year of the biennium. This will increase the
budget by $17,500 or $2,500 per person, per year. The motion carried.
Judge McCullough said with regard to the FTE requests, the current proposal is to follow the
WAPC study of 18 state funded and 5 contract clerks. In the event we do not ask for all of the
additional positions for the state funded clerks, he suggested reviewing the county contract clerks
positions as well.
Jim Ganje noted the judicial system determines the clerk need but the statutory amount that the
county is compensated is directed by statute. It is based on the salary the county pays their
employees. Mr. Wolf added there is an increased need of 6.5 clerks. According to the statute, we
have to determine what the contract payments are based on formula by August 1. Contracts were
submitted to the counties stating what the payments will be based on the FTE need. All of the
contracts have been signed for the current biennium.
Chief Justice VandeWalle agrees the court should start looking at our procedures and suggested a
committee may be needed to review the current clerk duties and how we can improve. Judge
Hagerty noted it is also important to consider that we may not be doing things that we should be
doing because we simply do not have the staff and so it is important to look at both sides. Rod Olson stated the court administrators are reviewing the clerk procedures. He said with the
implementation of Odyssey, the clerks role has changed. With the old system, when the clerk’s
office received a piece of paper, they filed it and gave the whole file to the judge and the judge
figured out what needed to be done. Now with Odyssey, the clerk’s office has this piece of paper
and needs to know who needs to see it and when they need to see it. They have much more of a
decision making role now and if they make the wrong decision, there are consequences to that.
Judge Racek noted it is important to have all employees and judges engaged. There is sometimes
a disconnect between what the judges understand we are doing and what we are trying to do. The
judges and clerks need to work together. In UCIS, we were just recording history. Now with
Odyssey, we need those documents to prepare for the hearing and to process the case so there is a
lot more critical thinking involved in the clerk’s office.
Rod Olson added that because we do not have misdemeanor probation in North Dakota, the
clerk’s office has basically taken over that role. It is very time consuming for the clerks to track
all of those cases. Ms. Holewa stated that this issue was brought to the Administrative Council a
few years ago, and the Administrative Council voted unanimously to have the clerks track those
conditions because there is no one else to do it.
Judge Herauf said that the notices for alcohol evaluations and fines were a lot easier to run in
UCIS. Now with Odyssey that report is not in there. Mr. Zubke responded that part of the
problem is the difference between UCIS and the Odyssey systems - case based versus party
based. It is just more difficult in the Odyssey system. The User Group will be meeting in
September to work on a solution.
It was moved by Judge Medd, seconded by Judge McLees, to forward the budget as
amended to the Supreme Court for consideration. The motion carried.
Disposition of Bail Judge Racek said the Odyssey User Group has been discussing the options the court has for
returning or forfeiting bail. He said the group is requesting two changes. 1) the bond money be
declared the property of the defendant; and 2) the money could be applied to whatever the
defendant owes the court unless prior to posting the bond the judge signs an order saying
otherwise. He said the information on the bond envelope is often incomplete and it would
eliminate the thousands of bond remitter records being entered by the clerks. In addition, if there
is a balance of the original amount posted, the proceeds could be applied to other financial
obligations imposed in other criminal cases or past due child support.
Judge Racek said one of the concerns Jim Ganje raised in his memo was about someone
mortgaging the house or posting a large amount of bail and the defendant makes all appearances.
Judge Racek said as a practical matter, the risk of this happening is limited because the biggest
fine is $10,000. The Minnesota statute has an exemption that if a third party wants to post bail, a
judge can sign the order acknowledging that it is the third party’s property before the bail is
After discussion, it was moved by Judge Racek, seconded by Judge Foughty, to have Jim
Ganje draft an amendment to the proposed statute for the Council’s review. That
amendment should state that cash bail is the property of the defendant unless the court
orders otherwise at the time the bond is being filed that as property of the defendant it can
be applied to any monies that are owed to the court.
Judge Racek suggested using the same language referring to the fines, fees, costs, restitution and
child support that is currently on the bond envelope. Judge Medd noted in Grand Forks, they
apply the bond money to the fines and fees but do not use it for child support.
Judge Herauf said the way it is being proposed, the judge does not have control unless that person
is coming to us contemporaneously with an order and in all practicality they are not going to do
that. He said to some people, $400 is a lot of money. The person posting the money is interested
in getting the family member out of jail and is not always reading everything in the paperwork.
After discussion, the motion carried. Jim Ganje and Judge Racek will work on a proposal.
Judge Racek suggested another agency bill be proposed. He said currently there are several
different fees that may be imposed for a variety of purposes and each fee is tracked separately.
He suggested a flat fee be imposed and the legislature direct how much is deposited in each fund.
Odyssey is good at breaking down things by percentages and it could eliminate a lot of work for
the clerks. He suggested reviewing the fees collected during the past five years and breaking it
down into the percentages for the legislature to review. After discussion, it was moved by
Judge Racek, seconded by Judge Herauf, to have Jim Ganje draft proposed legislation for
the Council’s review.
Rod Olson said Minnesota did this quite a few years ago and at first there were concerns that
some groups would not get their share. It is somewhat complicated to get it set up, but once that
is done, it is so efficient. He said this would make things better and be more efficient for the
clerk’s office and would also help the judges in the courtroom.
Mr. Ganje stated Judge Racek brought this proposal to the Judicial Planning meeting. After
reviewing the stack of papers, he concluded what Minnesota did was not very simple. For
example, the court administrative fee has certain statutory benchmarks.
In response to a question from Chief Justice VandeWalle asking if there was a recent legislative
study on fees, Mr. Ganje confirmed there was a study but nothing has come out of it.
Judge Medd stated he has concerns with the litany of fees and said he routinely waives the
community service fee paid to the court because they are paying a fee to the local community
service provider. Moving forward with the legislation would take away the judge’s discretion
about waiving certain fees. Chief Justice VandeWalle said that some people are unhappy that the
fees are being waived and have noted their concerns to the legislature.
Judge Foughty noted that not all fees go through the state treasury and some of the fees go
directly to the county. Mr. Olson stated that for those fees, the clerk would need to send out
Judge Foughty suggested drafting legislation that would include the fees we have ranked as a
priority in one consolidated fee but retain the separate domestic violence fee that goes directly to
the county safe house.
Chief Justice VandeWalle stated the importance of contacting the community service people in
advance of the legislative session so they know the purpose of the bill.
The motion carried with one person voting no.
It was moved by Judge Herauf, seconded by Judge Hagerty, to adjourn the meeting. The