Justice Carol Ronning Kapsner, Chair Bill Brudvik Rep. Lois Delmore Judge Donovan Foughty Referee John Grinsteiner Dorothy Howard Rep. William Kretschmar Justice Mary Muehlen Maring Chuck Peterson
Judge Sonja Clapp Joyce Harnden Jim Hill Mark Johnson Judge Donald Jorgensen Courtney Koebele Deb Simenson Pat Weir
Chair Kapsner called the meeting to order at 10:00 a.m. and drew Committee members' attention to Attachment B (October 13, 2005) - Minutes of the July 22, 2005, meeting. It was noted that the meeting date was incorrectly reflected as October 29, 2004.
It was moved by Judge Foughty, seconded by Bill Brudvik, and carried that the minutes, as corrected, be approved.
Chair Kapsner noted the 2005 meeting dates included on the agenda: April 7, July 14, and October 20. She asked that Committee members advise her or staff of any conflicts on those dates.
Proposed Court Interpreter Handbook - Revised
The Committee then turned to a review of Attachment C (October 13, 2005) - the proposed
handbook developed by the Court Interpreter Guide Subcommittee, with revisions resulting from the July 22 meeting. Staff briefly reviewed the revisions and the general purpose of the proposed
Chair Kapsner then requested discussion of the revised handbook and any further suggestions for changes.
In response to a question from Rep. Delmore regarding how frequently interpreters are needed, Dorothy Howard said the need arises quite often in Cass County, particularly with respect to foreign
language interpreters. She said the court administrator has general responsibility for identifying available interpreters and contracting with entities to provide interpreter services.
In response to a question from Bill Brudvik regarding awareness of available court interpreters, staff said a list of those who have provided interpreter services in the past would be assembled as additional information available with the handbook.
Justice Maring noted a number of typographical and other technical changes that could be made
to the proposed handbook. Chair Kapsner asked that Justice Maring forward the corrections to staff.
It was moved by Judge Foughty, seconded by Chuck Peterson, and carried that the
proposed handbook, as revised and with any additional necessary technical changes, be submitted to the Supreme Court for its consideration.
Chair Kapsner thanked Subcommittee members for their work on the handbook.
Pro Se Forms
Chair Kapsner next drew attention to Attachment D (October 13, 2005) - an email forwarding a suggestion from Judge Debbie Kleven that a property and debt listing form be included in the pro se simple divorce forms now posted on the Supreme Court's website. She noted that the simple divorce forms, along with other pro se forms, were previously developed by a subcommittee of this Committee
and subsequently made available by the Supreme Court on the website. She said Judge Kleven's suggestion seems a reasonable one. She noted the subcommittee had considered but did not develop child support related forms for use by self-represented litigants. She said Judge Kleven's request would require at least a brief review of the current simple divorce forms and that effort may provide the opportunity to consider development of additional forms. She said some members of the earlier
subcommittee are willing to again assist in developing forms.
Judge Foughty said that as a judge he would appreciate some mechanism by which a person who may not be able to afford an attorney can request modification of child support. He said he
receives very informal requests, often in letter form, regarding changes to child support. The current process, he said, is unfair and unbalanced with respect to someone of limited means seeking a change
in a child support obligation. He said if forms were in place a party would have useful information to rely upon in making a request to the court.
Referee Grinsteiner said some forms related to child support have been developed in the South Central judicial district. He offered to serve on a subcommittee if one is established.
Dorothy Howard suggested that if a subcommittee is formed membership should include a clerk of district court since clerks are often the first point of contact for a person wanting to change child support. She suggested including a clerk from a large county office and one from a small county office in the membership. She emphasized that instructions for the forms should be clear and easy to
Justice Maring said Judge Bohlman, now retired from the bench but serving as a Surrogate Judge, was a member of the previous subcommittee and may be willing to serve again. She noted that
he has a particular interest in this area.
In response to a question from Chair Kapsner regarding the scope of the subcommittee's work, Rep. Delmore suggested the subcommittee should review needs in the child support area and draft any forms considered appropriate to serve those needs. Committee members agreed.
Dorothy Howard suggested the simple divorce forms be reviewed for compliance with Rule3.1 of the Rules of Court, which governs inclusion of personal identifying information in court pleadings. Committee members agreed.
Following further discussion, it was moved by Rep. Delmore, seconded by Bill Brudvik, and carried that a subcommittee be formed to review suggested changes to the simple divorce forms
and to develop forms related to modification of child support obligations, and that the Chair contact interested persons to serve on the subcommittee.
Chair Kapsner then drew attention to Attachment E (October 13, 2005) - a referral to the
Committee concerning various issues relating to custody investigators. She noted that the referral includes a letter from Ted Gladden outlining issues concerning whether training provisions under the
governing rule should be mandatory and whether a process should be established to consider complaints about custody investigator performance. The referral also includes a letter from Rep. Louise
Potter outlining constituent concerns about custody investigator conduct in a particular case. She said the question for the Committee is how best to respond to the referral and whether a subcommittee
should be formed to develop proposals to address the various issues.
Judge Foughty observed that custody investigators are very useful to the court and are a valuable resource for information and reports considered by the court in resolving custody issues.
Justice Kapsner said various complaints regarding custody investigators have surfaced periodically such as improper contacts, bias, or conflicts. She said there currently is no mechanism to respond to such complaints, which reflects in part that there is no particular certification process for custody investigators.
Chuck Peterson observed that when there are concerns about custody investigator performance the options are generally limited to either attempting to discredit the custody investigator on the stand
or file a motion with the court to remove the custody investigator.
Bill Brudvik noted that Rule 8.6 of the Rules of Court establishes only "preferred" qualifications for custody investigators and wondered whether other states have imposed mandatory
Justice Maring suggested it would be helpful to determine whether any codes of ethics have been developed for custody investigators.
With respect to possible subcommittee members, Justice Kapsner noted that several people have
offered to participate: Maureen Holman, Pat Garrity, Sherry Mills Moore, Ben Thomas, and DeAnn Pladson. She noted that most have either served as a custody investigator or have had cases in which a custody investigator was involved. She said Tara Muhlhauser, currently with the Department of
Human Services, has provided training for custody investigators and guardians ad litem and may also be helpful as a subcommittee member.
Justice Maring suggested a judge should be included on the subcommittee. She noted the letter from Rep. Potter concerning custody investigator qualifications and conduct and suggested a legislator should also be considered. Chair Kapsner said she would contact Rep. Potter about serving if a subcommittee is established. Committee members agreed subcommittee membership should include
a lay custody investigator.
Following further discussion, it was moved by Chuck Peterson, seconded by Rep. Kretschmar, and carried that a subcommittee be formed to review the issues outlined in
Attachment E and develop proposals in response and that the Chair contact interested persons to serve on the subcommittee.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 11:05 a.m.