Administrative Council Interactive Video Conference June 6, 2012
Present: Chief Justice Gerald W. VandeWalle, Chair Judge Sonja Clapp Justice Daniel Crothers Judge Donovan Foughty Judge Gail Hagerty Maureen Holman Judge Steven McCullough Judge Joel Medd Judge William McLees Judge John Paulson Judge Frank Racek
Absent: Judge William Herauf Judge Bruce Romanick
Staff: Louie Hentzen Sally Holewa
Others Present: Kim Nelsen Rod Olson Carolyn Probst Donna Wunderlich Don Wolf
Minutes: Renee Barnaby
Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle called the meeting to order at 8:00 a.m.
Minutes It was moved by Judge Hagerty, seconded by Justice Crothers, to approve the February 23,
2012 minutes. The motion carried.
FTE Requests for 2013-2015 Biennium Chief Justice VandeWalle said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss and approve the FTE
requests for this next biennium. Sally Holewa apologized for the delays. She said there were
numerous issues and delays in getting the workload study for the clerks computed on time. A
corrected version was issued late Tuesday morning, and the FTE requests from the administrators
were received and were sent out by email to the Council early Tuesday afternoon. The Help Desk
is still trying to track down the reason some members did not receive the material. It may be
related to the server migration that took place over the weekend.
Ms. Holewa said every other year the Administrative Council reviews the district court requests
for new full time employees that will be presented to the legislature. All units have requested
employees except unit 1. The other three units are asking for a total of 25 new employees, which
includes making the temporary FTEs full time. Unit 2 has requested 11 FTE positions (6 deputy
clerks for Cass County, 1 juvenile secretary and 3 juvenile court officers for the ECJD, and 1 law
clerk for the SEJD). Unit 3 has requested 9 FTE position (5 deputy clerks for Burleigh County, 1
deputy clerk for Morton County, 1 deputy clerk for Stark County, 1 juvenile court officer and 1
juvenile secretary for the SCJD). Unit 4 has requested 5 FTE positions (2 deputy clerks for Ward
County and 3 deputy clerks in Williams County).
Chief Justice VandeWalle noted his concerns with the FTE requests. He recalled last session, the
number of FTEs was listed in the appropriation bill.
In response to a question asking if the request for deputy clerks is based on the recent study by the
National Center for State Courts, Ms. Holewa responded it is but the study has not yet been
distributed. Chief Justice VandeWalle stated the workload study is a guide and noted the
importance of reviewing it.
Donna Wunderlich stated her frustration with the trend of not receiving new FTEs even though
the population is shifting from the smaller counties into the larger counties. The workload in the
state-funded counties has been increasing dramatically, and the clerks offices are all functioning
with the same number of FTEs they had in 2000. She said having temporary FTEs is better than
no FTEs, but it is not very efficient. Because temporary employees typically accept full time
positions as they become available, they are continually training in new temps. Ms. Wunderlich
also stated the clerks have had to cut a lot of corners to make deadlines. They are probably not
good corners to cut, but they have had to make those changes to get the work into the system.
Carolyn Probst echoed Ms. Wunderlich’s comments stating because the court system has not
received the FTEs it has needed in the past, the numbers continue to increase. Because the
workload studies reflect the past year’s filings by the time we receive staff, we are another year
behind and the workload is even greater than what the study shows.
Chief Justice VandeWalle said that he has concerns about asking for so many FTEs in one
session. He said the legislature will not look favorably on it, and it may create more of a backlash
than asking for a more modest number. If we ask for too much, we may get nothing.
Judge Hagerty noted the State Bar Association of North Dakota’s Justice System Energy Impact
Task Force conducted its first session in Bismarck and it was a strong session. Sessions will also
be held in Dickinson, Williston and Minot. Court reporters are collecting written testimony and
the task force is compiling the numbers of the impact the oil boom has had on the state’s justice
system. All of the sessions will be completed by the end of June and a draft report issued in July.
She said because of the work the task force has put into the sessions, she is hopeful that the court
system will not be timid about asking for what is needed to get the work done.
Chief Justice VandeWalle noted the greatest number of requests is coming from Unit 2 in which
the task force is not even making an appearance. Judge Hagerty responded that while the western
part of the state has seen a big impact, the eastern part of the state is also showing population
growth because of all the business development. Judge McCullough stated the need in Unit 2 has
grown slowly over a long period of time so it may not be as dramatic an impact as the need in the
west, but, the need is just as real.
Ms. Wunderlich said attorneys at the task force meeting stated people from oil country cannot
find attorneys so they are calling attorneys in Bismarck to represent them. Parties are agreeing to
venue actions in Burleigh County that would have been held elsewhere because services are still
available. Also, because people cannot find housing in oil country, they are moving their families
to other communities and commuting. Even though Burleigh County is not in oil county per se, it
is definitely impacted by it.
Judge McLees said that they have been meeting with legislative and county officials over the past
few weeks in Williston, Minot, and Watford City. The sense from the county officials is that the
court system needs to ask for what it needs because we are already behind the curve. The clerk’s
office in Williston has been closed on Friday afternoons for the past several months so they can
try to keep up. He noted in western North Dakota people are migrating into the smaller cities.
In response to a question from Judge McCullough asking if the supreme court is asking for FTEs,
Ms. Holewa said the supreme court will be asking for 4 temporary technology coordinators to
become permanent employees. The temporary technology coordinators are the Help Desk for the
district court and are paid through the district court budget.
Judge Hagerty stated it is particularly important for all judges to be working with the legislators
going into the session and using the tools and information that we are able to gather.
Judge McLees said the meetings in Stanley, Watford City, Williston, and Minot have been well
received. Officials are projecting a population for Watford City in the coming years of anywhere
from 15,000 to 20,000. Last year, the community had approximately 1,500 people. The situation
changes weekly and is something you have to see to truly appreciate. They are projecting the
population in Williston will reach approximately 60,000.
Judge Foughty noted the importance of all judges speaking with their legislators, whether their
unit is asking for employees or not. Sally Holewa stated it is important for everyone to bind
together and work as one system. She said we have to present a united voice to the legislature.
Chief Justice VandeWalle said although the general consensus seems to ask for 29 FTEs, another
meeting will be scheduled in July to continue the discussion.