|N.D. Supreme Court|

Gender Fairness Implementation Committee

MINUTES
Gender Fairness Implementation Committee
Supreme Court Conference Room, Bismarck
September 10, 2004

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

Members Absent
None

Others Present
Jeanne McLean, UND School of Law
Bonnie Palecek, Linda Isaacson; ND Council on Abused Women's Services

Chair Maring called the meeting to order at 9:00 a.m. and drew Committee members' attention to Attachment B (September 3, 2004) - Minutes of the June 18, 2004, meeting.

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

Committee Proposals - Update

At Chair Maring's request, staff informed Committee members that the employee handbook approved at the last meeting had been put in final form, in a tri-fold format, and submitted to the Supreme Court. He said the handbook is currently being reviewed by the Court.

With respect to the proposed amendments to the CLE rule (adding bias and diversity-related programs as kinds of programs that would satisfy the ethics requirement), staff said the amendments were submitted to the Supreme Court and, after a comment period, were adopted September 9. Justice Maring noted that the Supreme Court made a minor change to the proposed amendments to underscore that the new language essentially encourages attorneys to obtain CLE hours in the noted areas.

With respect to the Committee's proposed amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct regarding bias-related issues, staff said the Judiciary Standards Committee has reviewed the amendments and will consider them further at the Committee's October meeting.

Diversity and Bias-related Education - Methods of Providing Programs

Chair Maring observed that the availability in the state of education programs for attorneys on diversity and bias-related issue is a matter of continuing concern. She said the recent amendments to the CLE rule have renewed discussion of this issue. She requested Committee discussion of possible ways to encourage and support programs on bias and diversity issues.

Barbara Voglewede noted the early classes at the Law School pioneered by Professor Marcia O'Kelly on the impact of bias in domestic law. She wondered whether it would be worthwhile for the Committee to contact Dean LeBel of the Law School and offer its support and encouragement for reinstituting and continuing these kinds of classes. Committee members agreed the Chair should submit a letter to Dean LeBel on this issue.

Jim Fitzsimmons explained that Legal Services of North Dakota will be developing CLE programs for pro bono attorneys and would welcome suggestions from the Committee concerning presenters on bias issues. He said Legal Services is also planning a Christmas Indian law-related CLE program that will be provided at no cost to pro bono attorneys and attorneys handling cases for a reduced fee. He suggested a 1 or 2 hour program on bias and ethics might be included in the program. Judge Kleven suggested that the program be made available to indigent defense attorneys as well. Committee members agreed.

Judge Kleven noted the increasing ethnic and cultural diversity in the eastern portion of the state and said education programs on culture and bias would be helpful to lawyers in the area. She said there is a similar need for more programs regarding Indian law and culture.

Justice Maring said there are several individuals in Minnesota who present education programs on bias issues. She said she would provide names to Jim Fitzsimmons to consider for the December CLE program.

Focus Group Process - Budget and Process

Chair Maring informed Committee members that the Committee's funding recommendation for a focus group process was approved by Chief Justice VandeWalle. She said the Committee should begin considering how the process should be structured and the sequence of regional focus group meetings. She requested that staff review the process used by the Commission on Gender Fairness in the Courts as a starting point for developing a proposed meeting schedule. She said if the Committee intends to begin the process in early to mid-summer 2005, it will be necessary to develop in the near future a firm timeline and schedule of meetings, as well as identify those Committee members who are able to participate.

Domestic Violence Benchbook - Training and Assessment

Chair Maring explained that the ND Council on Abused Women's Services had applied for and received grant funds to conduct training programs based on the ND Domestic Violence Benchbook and to assess the effectiveness of the benchbook. She said the Supreme Court had agreed to partner with NDCAWS in the project and will designate someone to develop a curriculum based on the benchbook and will provide staff and services support for the curriculum development. She welcomed Bonnie Palecek and Linda Isaacson to the meeting for comments on the grant implementation process. She also welcomed Jeanne McLean, author of the benchbook, for comments on curriculum development and enhancements to the benchbook.

Linda Isaacson distributed the objectives, budget, and memorandum of understanding concerning the grant project, which are attached as an Appendix. She said the grant proposal and plan contemplates a collaborative effort in the training and assessment process, with the Supreme Court taking the lead with curriculum development and training. She said NDCAWS will assist in that effort as requested and work with whomever the Supreme Court designates to develop the curriculum and training schedule.

Jeanne McLean noted that she had been compiling information on possible training issues, as well as information for updating the benchbook. In response to a question from Chair Maring, Jeanne McLean said she is willing to develop a curriculum based on the benchbook and provide education programs to judges and court personnel.

Chair Maring said the more obvious issues are whether the education programs should be provided regionally or during the Judicial Institute, Judicial Conference, or Clerks' Conference, at which most judges and clerks are assembled. Jeanne McLean said the objective should be to try to reach as many judges and court personnel as possible with the education programs. Judge Kleven suggested the possibility of providing education programs in each of the administrative units.

Justice Maring wondered whether domestic violence advocates should be included in the education programs for judges and court personnel. Judge Kleven said it may be worthwhile to have an advocate present to respond to questions from judges and court personnel and to, as well, be aware of the information that is being presented.

With respect to curriculum design, Linda Isaacson said there had been some discussion of designing a curriculum component that is easily transferrable to different formats and that can be used over time with different audiences.

In response to a question from Chair Maring, Bonnie Palecek said the grant timeframe is July 2004 through June 2006.

In response to a question from Jeanne McLean regarding whether she would present education programs to judges, court personnel, and advocates, Committee members agreed the education programs should focus on judges and court personnel.

Justice Maring noted that she had recently received a checklist and proposed order for supervised visitation. She suggested that the benchbook could be supplemented to address issues concerning supervised visitation. Committee members agreed. Justice Maring will send the information to Jeanne.

Domestic Violence Statutes - Possible Changes

In response to a question from Chair Maring, Bonnie Palecek said the primary statutory issue has been the definition of domestic violence currently in the Century Code. The current definition, she said, does not include emotional abuse, although the reference to "threat of imminent harm" seems to reach in that direction. The difficulty, she said, is that "threat" and "imminent" seem future-oriented and consequently do not seem able to encompass emotional abuse. She said the NDCAWS legislative committee has struggled with the issue and reviewed other state laws, but has not yet reached a conclusion. She welcomed any suggestions Committee members might have.

Next Meeting

Committee members agreed the next meeting should be in February 2005. Chair Maring said there would be further discussions with Jeanne McLean, Bonnie Palecek, and Linda Isaacson regarding implementation of the curriculum development and training project.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 10:30 a.m.

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Jim Ganje, Staff