November 7, 2002
The Honorable Gerald W. VandeWalle
North Dakota Supreme Court
600 E Boulevard, Dept 180
Bismarck, ND 58505-0530
Re: Planning Recommendations
Dear Chief Justice VandeWalle:
The Judicial Planning Committee has completed its initial work developing planningrecommendations forthe North Dakota judicial system.On behalf of the Committee, I am pleased to submit theattached MissionStatement (Attachment A), Vision Statement (Attachment B), and Planning Recommendations(AttachmentC).These are the products of a collegial and diverse Committee membership, and reflect themembers'careful and thoughtful consideration of issues affecting the judiciary.
Over the course of six meetings, the Judicial Planning Committee reviewed a considerableamount ofinformation regarding planning in the judicial environment.The Committee began its study withan overviewof the state judicial system and a discussion of the general components of judicial planning.TheCommitteesought to combine elements of long term planning and futures planning to enable it to considernot only short-term issues affecting the judicial system but also to identify issues and trends thatmay affect the judiciaryfarther into the future.Often called "strategic planning", this approach allowed the Committee tobegin aprocess we hope will assist our system in moving beyond short-term planning and crisismanagement andtowards anticipating future demandssystematically and consistently.
The first step in the Committee's planning effort was development of a mission statement. The Committeewas aided in this effort by review of the mission statement devised by the Committee'spredecessor.Afterdiscussion of the general purposes and components of a mission statement, the Committeeprepared a draftstatement, which was distributed to judges and employees of the judicial system for comment. Thosecomments were reviewed by the Committee and proved useful in refining the statement. Following furtherconsideration, the Committee adopted the attached Mission Statement, which the Committeeconcludedclearly and succinctly describes the overarching purpose of the judicial system.
The next step in the Committee's work involved development of a vision statement - astatement thatrepresents what the judicial system should look like and be doing in the future.Reviewingtrends affectingthe judiciary, both present and future, is important in this effort if a vision statement is to beuseful not onlyin realistically representing the preferred future course for the judiciary, but also in describingwhat futurechanges are needed to enable the judiciary to more effectively provide judicial services tocitizens of the state. To aid the Committee in its review of trends affecting the judicial system, judges and employeeswere askedto identify the three most significant trends they perceived as affecting the judiciary, possibleresponses tothose trends, and changes they thought the judiciary should initiate over the next five years. Commentsreceived from judges and employees identified twelve general trends, fifteen possible responsesto trends, andeight actions considered necessary for the judiciary to undertake in the short term. Using thisinformation,a distillation of trends identified in planning initiatives across the country, and demographicinformationconcerning North Dakota citizens, the Committee prepared, revised, and adopted the attachedVisionStatement.The Vision Statement's four segments address the following areas of recommendedjudicialaction: public trust and confidence, technology, dispute resolution, and administrative andoperational supportstructure.
Based upon information reviewed and discussed in developing the mission and visionstatements, theCommittee assembled planning recommendations in each area identified in the VisionStatement.While allthe recommendations anchored in and informed by the Vision Statement are important, theCommitteeconcluded that none can likely be effectively achieved now or in the future unless the judicialsystem'sadministrative and operational support structure is changed to provide a more flexible, informed,andcooperative method for administrative decision-making.As reflected in the opening paragraphof the attachedPlanning Recommendations, the Committee concluded that too often internal policies,procedures, andpractices contribute to confused and inconsistent implementation of system objectives and compromise thejudicial system's ability to effectively provide judicial services.Perhaps most significantly, theCommitteeconcluded there is a lack of clarity and commitment concerning the system's need to operate as awhole ratherthan as a collection of independent parts.
The attached Planning Recommendations, in Sections I through III, offer severalrecommendations in theareas of public trust and confidence, technology, and dispute resolution.While last in theprogression,Section IV, which offers recommendations regarding administrative and operational support,forms thebedrock upon which achieving the others necessarily depends.These recommendations wereinformed ingood measure by the discussions at two sessions of the Judicial Conference facilitated by theGroup DecisionCenter from NDSU.At the November 2001 session, the discussion appeared to indicate ageneral agreementon matters concerning the administrative organization of our system.A common theme seemedto be theneed to consider a more refined, accountable process for administrative authority anddecision-making.TheCommittee discussed similar issues and, informed by the Judicial Conference activities,developed DraftReorganization Concepts regarding the administrative structure and operation of the system. Those Conceptswere presented to the June 2002 Judicial Conference and formed the basis for a two daydiscussion ofadministrative reorganization.The Committee reviewed the results of that discussion asbackground for therecommendations in Section IV.
In Section IVB of the Planning Recommendations, the Committee recommends the currentCouncil ofPresiding Judges should be replaced by a more broadly representative Council that would haveresponsibilityfor developing policies and procedures governing the administration of the district and juvenilecourt system. Council membership would consist of at least nine members, including the Chief Justice asCouncil Chair,one justice of the Supreme Court, the presiding judge from each administrative unit to bedescribed below,one judge elected at large from each unit, and at least one lawyer.The Committee concludedthat such arepresentative body would provide a more broad-based vehicle for considering administrativeissues and alsoprovide for enhanced involvement of the trial bench through their elected representatives. Lawyermembership would prove beneficial in providing the perspective of members of the bar, who areamong thoseobviously affected by the administrative management of the judicial system.The Committeecarefullyconsidered the membership of the recommended new Council with the objective of affording theopportunityfor informed, constructive decision-making regarding the administrative operation of the judicialsystem.Thekey membership element is the Chief Justice's status as chair of the Council, which theCommittee concludedpreserves the administrative authority vested in the Chief Justice by the state constitution.
The Committee also recommends in Section IVB of the Planning Recommendations thatthe state be dividedinto three administrative units for purposes of assuring effective and uniform implementation ofadministrative policies and procedures developed by the Council.A presiding judge would beselected foreach unit and a trained trial court administrator should be employed for each unit.To ensure aclear line ofauthority and responsibility and to ensure effective implementation of policies and procedures,the Committeerecommends that each trial court administrator should be hired by the state court administratorafterconsultation with the presiding judge and should be supervised by the state court administrator. Subsequentrecommendations address the scope of responsibility and authority exercised by the trial courtadministrators.
In recognition of the administrative responsibilities of the new Council, the Committeerecommends inSection IVC that committees associated with the development of trial court administrativepolicies andprocedures should be established under the new Council.Membership would be determined bythe ChiefJustice after consultation with the Council.Joint bench-bar committees and other committeesresponsible formatters other than trial court administration would continue as committees of the Supreme Court.
As previously indicated, the Committee concluded modifications to the administrativeoperation and supportstructure of our judicial system were essential to effectively achieve the goals contemplated inthe Missionand Vision Statements.While ultimately in agreement regarding the role of the new Council, theCommitteediscussed at length whether the Council should have broader, more encompassingresponsibilityfordeveloping policies and procedures for the administration and operation of the entire judicialsystem.Suchan empowered Council was considered to represent a cleaner, more logical method fordecision-makingconcerning administrative practices and procedures.However, the Committee concluded thatsuch anarrangement may pose serious issues with respect to the constitutional authority andresponsibility of theChief Justice and concluded that a more narrowly limited Council, while not ideal, could providea basis forinformed, cooperative decision-making with respect to the administrative operation of thejudicial system. The Committee did agree, however, that the operation of the new Council, if established, shouldbe monitoredand greater responsibilities for the Council should be considered periodically.This conclusion isreflectedin Section IVB(1).
The Committee worked diligently in developing the attached Mission and VisionStatements and PlanningRecommendations.I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks and appreciation tomembersof the Committee for their unfailing willingness to commit substantial time and effort to theCommittee'swork.Their experience, vision, and commitment to improving the judiciary have resulted inproposals thatare realistic yet hopeful for change within our judicial system.
If you have any questions concerning the work of the Committee, please contact me at yourconvenience. I am willing to discuss these recommendations at greater length if you desire.Committeemembers have alsoindicated their interest in continuing discussions about the issues addressed in this report withthe SupremeCourt, the Council if established, and others as deemed appropriate.
William A. Neumann, Chair
Judicial Planning Committee