|N.D. Supreme Court|

Gender Fairness Implementation Committee

Supreme Court Conference Room, Bismarck
May 20 , 2005

Members Present
Justice Mary Muehlen Maring, Chair
Jim Fitzsimmons
Judge Debbie Kleven
Judge Burt Riskedahl
Barbara Voglewede

Members Absent
Pat Durick

Chair Maring called the meeting to order at 8:30 a.m. and drew Committee members' attention to AttachmentB (May 12, 2005)- Minutes of the February 25, 2005, meeting.

 It was moved by Judge Kleven, seconded by Judge Riskedahl, and carried that the minutes be approved.

Focus Group Process - Meetings and Participants

Chair Maring drew attention to Attachment C (May 12, 2005), the tentative schedule of focus group discussion meeting with attorneys and other court users, and asked whether the dates and locations were generally workable. It was noted that some members would not be available for the tentative August 23 meeting. Following further review, Committee members tentatively approved the following schedule of dates and meeting locations: August 15 (Fargo/Jamestown); August 16 (Bismarck/Dickinson); August 22 (Minot/Williston); August 24 (Devils Lake/Grand Forks).

With respect to start times for the meetings, Committee members agreed tentative times for the meetings should be 8:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. for the first meeting and approximately 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. for the second meeting.

In response to a question from Chair Maring, Committee members agreed court users invited to the meetings should include child support enforcement personnel, representatives from domestic violence groups, and those involved in victim/witness assistance. It was also agreed that specific attention be paid to inviting attorneys that practice in domestic law and criminal law (prosecution and defense).

Justice Maring suggested, and Committee members agreed, that issues of professional conduct should be included in the discussions as well as gender bias issues in the context of domestic and criminal law proceedings.

Barbara Voglewede noted an earlier California Report that, when reviewing conduct issues, defined the courthouse as including the more obvious environments, such as the courtroom itself and court chambers, but also included formal and informal professional gatherings and general interactions within the courthouse. She emphasized the importance of obtaining comments about experiences in these general settings.

In response to a question from Judge Riskedahl, Chair Maring said invitations, along with brief background material, would be sent to those identified for participation in the various meetings.

Committee members then discussed possible participants for the meetings. Chair Maring asked members to forward names of any additional possible participants that should be considered for the meetings.

With respect to the background information to accompany the invitations, Justice Maring suggested focusing on core issues identified in the Commission's Report and Recommendations which will assist in conducting the group discussions. Committee members agreed. Judge Riskedahl encouraged obtaining comments from those in the more rural areas of the state.

Committee members then discussed possible dates in September for focus group discussion meetings with court employees. Date selections will be refined and Committee members contacted for final availability.


Committee members next discussed whether questionnaires or surveys should be used to solicit comments on identified issues before the focus group discussion meetings. Chair Maring drew attention to Attachment D (May 12, 2005) - surveys distributed to attorneys and court personnel as part of the judicial improvement program. Committee members agreed that the general subject matter of the surveys could be incorporated in a questionnaire for meeting participants, with response received in advance of the meetings.

Barbara Voglewede suggested including general statements or rhetorical questions on bias issues which could be reviewed by participants, particularly court employees, with the goal of being prepared to discuss the issues at the meeting. She emphasized the importance of generating useful comments while also ensuring that any comments provided are not so specific that identities are revealed.

In response to a question from staff, Committee members agreed a questionnaire should also be developed for attorneys and others who will be invited to the meetings. Barbara Voglewede suggested, and Committee members agreed, that those who cannot attend the meetings should also be encouraged to complete the questionnaire.

Following further discussion, Committee members agreed the questionnaires should briefly outline changes in the system since the Commission's Final Report and provide several questions in response to which participants can offer comments on whether positive changes in the system have occurred. Barbara Voglewede suggested including a question concerning whether the same professional courtesies extended to male attorneys are extended to female attorneys or whether there are continued occurrences of inappropriate forms of address or comments on personal appearance based on gender stereotypes. Committee members agreed. Committee members also agreed a question should be included regarding the general professional environment of the courthouse.

Next Meeting

 Committee members agreed the next meeting will be Wednesday, August 10, for purposes of reviewing details for the various meetings.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 10:20 a.m.
Jim Ganje, Staff