North Dakota Judicial Conference
The meeting was called to order at 1:15 p.m., November 25, 2002. Executive Secretary Ted Gladden called roll. The following members of the Judicial Conference were present:
Judges of Supreme Court
Gerald W. VandeWalle
William A. Neumann
Dale V. Sandstrom
Carol Ronning Kapsner
Judges of District Court
Benny A. Graff
Bruce B. Haskell
Thomas J. Schneider
Robert O. Wefald
Robert W. Holte
William W. McLees
David W. Nelson
Everett Nels Olson
Gerald H. Rustad
Joel D. Medd (attended 11/26/02)
John T. Paulson
James M. Bekken
Ronald E. Goodman
John E. Greenwood
Allan L. Schmalenberger
Ronald L. Hilden
Michael O. McGuire
Ralph R. Erickson
M. Richard Geiger
Lee A. Christofferson
Laurie A. Fontaine
John C. McClintock, Jr.
Judges of Municipal Court
Robert A. Keogh
William F. Hodny
Clerk of Supreme Court
Members of the Bar
Steven J. Lies
Sherry Mills Moore
Michael D. Sturdevant
James S. Hill
Michael F. Daley
Following roll call, Chair James Bekken welcomed everyone.
Case Settlement Strategies
Chair James Bekken introduced the first speaker, Hon. Karen Klein, U.S. Magistrate, on the use of civil case settlement conferences. Judge Klein reviewed techniques for conducting evaluative and facilitative mediation. Judge Klein focused on various strategies for the effective processing of civil cases through mediation. Techniques for resolving case impasse were presented.
Department of Transportation/Drivers License Division Presentation
Keith Magnusson, Director of Driver Improvement Services for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, discussed the administration of his office. He reviewed selected cases with the conferees in terms of matters that caused staff, within his department, problems. Mr. Magnusson stressed that he is available at any time to respond to any concerns or questions judges may have on the administration of traffic-related cases. He reviewed legislation that will be introduced in 2003. Included will be legislation to reduce the presumptive blood alcohol level from .10 to .08. He discussed strategies that their department had taken to reduce drinking related violations statewide.
Confidential Records Under 42 CFR
Jean Mullen, ND Assistant Attorney General, was introduced. The topic of her presentation was on confidentiality of treatment records under 42 CFR. Ms. Mullen provided extensive background on procedures that need to be followed for judicial access to treatment records as part of judicial proceedings.
Continuity of Government Services
Doug Friez, Executive Director of Emergency Management Services; Tim Wiedrich, Bioterrorism Director, ND Department of Health; and Terry Milas, Risk Management Division, provided presentations on disaster preparedness and recovery from disaster situations to assure continuity of government services.
Mr. Wiedrich focused on planning initiatives in North Dakota as part of a national strategy to respond to threats of bioterrorism. Mr. Milas talked in terms of continuity of government services and the planning that is going on at the state and local level to develop continuity of service plans involving all stakeholders to address disaster preparedness, statewide. Mr. Milas reviewed the actual strategic planning steps that are being implemented statewide and the involvement of the judiciary in this planning.
Chair Bekken convened the business meeting following lunch. Justice William Neumann was called upon to provide a report of the Compensation Committee. Justice Neumann reviewed the final salary figures included in the judicial 03-05 budget. There are pay increases of 3% each year for district judges and 3% and 2% for supreme court justices. A question was raised as to why the difference in the rates of increase. This could make it more confusing for the legislature than submitting the same increase for everyone. In answer to the question, Ted Gladden informed the conference that the judicial budget deadline for submission was November 15. After considerable discussion, it was moved, seconded, and passed that supreme court justices and district judges should request no more pay increase than is provided to state employees. This change in request will be communicated during the hearings before the appropriation committees.
Chair Bekken introduced Sparb Collins, Executive Director of the Public Employees Retirement System, for remarks. Mr. Collins reviewed the performance of equity funds and the status of the margins in the judges retirement account. While the judges retirement plan is solvent, he did state that continued poor performance on the part of the stock market may result in some action having to be taken in the future to raise the margins. However, at the present time, the system needs to be monitored but no action needs to be taken.
Mr. Collins reviewed the status of negotiations on the health care program for state employees and judges. He indicated that overall, Blue Cross Blue Shield is requesting a 26% increase in premiums. It is undecided at this time how that increase will be dealt with, but it could mean an increase in premiums or an increase in co-payment by participants. Approximately half of the increase is for provider costs and the other half is being driven by the increase in the cost of prescription drugs.
Judge Ralph Erickson was called to provide his assessment of the coming legislative session. He indicated he has visited with selective legislative leaders in recent weeks. All of the feedback he is getting is that there is a substantial shortfall and that this will be a very difficult session for the legislature. He concurred with the action taken regarding the request for a judicial pay increase and indicated with the impact of the increase in health care costs, it would be unrealistic to expect any additional pay increase for judges above what all employees receive.
Ted Gladden was called upon to discuss proposed legislation relating to the increase in civil case filing fees to fund renovations of court facilities. He stated that a group had worked on the drafting of legislation to provide for a surcharge on civil filing fees to create a trust fund. Representative Duane DeKrey chaired a committee with Senator Tom Trenbeath, and Representative Pam Gulleson from the legislature; Mark Johnson and Wade Williams from the Association of Counties; Christine Hogan, Executive Director of the ND State Bar Association; and Ted Gladden, State Court Administrator's Office, to develop draft legislation. The legislation is designed to address, in part, the issue of remodeling and maintenance of courthouses throughout the state. The legislation provides for an advisory committee to oversee the administration of the funds. The committee will be made up with one representative from the legislature; two county commissioners, one representing counties where with a population of 7,500 and the other from counties less than 7,500; a representative from the State Bar Association; and a representative of the judiciary.
After Mr. Gladden's comments, Sherry Mills Moore informed the Conference that the legislative committee of the State Bar Association had met about two weeks ago and took a position to recommend to the Board of Governors not to support this initiative. There was concern that the proposal taxes civil litigation only, and that it is a state and county government issue and that the Bar Association should not get involved. The Bar will not take an active position in opposition to this proposal, however.
Chief Justice VandeWalle informed the Judicial Conference that he had visited with Representative Duane DeKrey and indicated that the bill would introduced as an agency bill.
Chair Bekken requested that members of the Conference submit possible items for the agenda for the June meeting. It was concluded that the June Judicial Conference would be in conjunction with the Bar Association Convention on June 25 and 26, 2003.