MINUTES OF MEETING
INFORMAL COMPLAINT PANEL
July 10, 2007
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order at 12:10 p.m., on July 10, 2007, by the Chair, Judge Karen Braaten. The meeting was conducted by telephone conference call.
Judge Karen Braaten, Chair
Judge Steven Marquart
Judge David Reich
Sister Kathleen Atkinson
Mr. Paul Richard
DRAW FOR TERMS
The Chair explained that, because all of the members of the panel are new, it was necessary to draw for staggered terms as specified in N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 44. After a random drawing, Sister Atkinson was given a one year term, Mr. Richard and Judge Braaten two year terms, and Judge Reich and Judge Marquart three year terms.
COMPLAINT HANDLING PROCEDURE
The Chair explained that Admin. Rule 44 did not allow the panel to retain records detailing the complaints it received, but that the panel was required to keep statistics on how many complaints it received. The Chair explained that when the members of the previous panel received complaints, copies were sent out to all members for review. Under this system, every member was aware of every complaint, so keeping track of the number of complaints received was straightforward.
The Chair said that all the members of panel were eligible to receive complaints. The Chair asked how the members wanted to handle any complaints they may receive. After discussion, the panel's consensus was that, when a panel member receives a complaint, the member should prepare a summary and then send the summary and a copy of the complaint to the rest of the members by email or postal mail. The panel decided that, after a complaint is distributed, the Chair should decide if a formal meeting on the complaint is required or if a discussion can be held by email to determine any action or response to the complaint.
INFORMAL COMPLAINT BROCHURE
The Chair explained that the main means of publicizing the panel was through a brochure distributed to all courthouses in the state. Staff indicated that the brochure was also available online at the Supreme Court website. The Chair said that it would be necessary to reprint the brochure because the existing publication contained the names of the previous panel members. The Chair said that the panel should review the brochure and the attached informal complaint form to see if any other revisions should be made.
The panel discussed a suggested revision submitted by court staff attorney James Ganje. Mr. Ganje suggested that it be made clear on the informal complaint form that only a state court employee could bring a formal grievance against another court employee. The panel agreed that such a revision would be appropriate. The revision would require deletion of a sentence regarding filing a grievance against an employee and substituting: "If you are an employee of the judicial system, you may file a formal grievance against another employee of the judicial system."
The panel discussed whether the brochures and complaint forms were actually available in all courthouses. Members agreed to check their respective facilities to ensure that the brochures were available.
The members agreed that the brochure could be rewritten to provide a better explanation of what types of behavior could be the subject of an informal complaint and what types of action the panel could take upon receiving an informal complaint. It was the consensus of the panel that the members should review the existing brochure and form and email one another with changes or additions they would like on the current brochure and complaint form within the next two weeks.
PANEL OUTREACH AND EDUCATION
The Chair pointed out that Judge Hagerty, the previous chair, had suggested that the new panel take steps to publicize the informal complaint process. Staff volunteered to produce an article for the Gavel and for the Supreme Court's website on the process.
The panel discussed ways to educate court staff about the informal complaint process. The Chair said that members of the previous panel had gone on the road to speak to court staff conferences about the informal complaint process. It was the consensus of the panel that this should be done again. Staff was instructed to obtain the court staff educational meeting calendar for review by the panel at the next meeting.
It was the consensus of the panel that another telephone conference call meeting should be scheduled in approximately 3 to 4 weeks time so that the issues raised at this meeting could be discussed further. The panel members agreed that noon hour worked well for scheduling telephone conference meetings.
The meeting adjourned at approximately 12:40 p.m. on July 10, 2007.
Michael J. Hagburg