Judge Joel Medd, Chair
Judge Laurie Fontaine
Judge Gary Lee
Judge Steven Marquart
Chair Medd called the meeting to order at 10:00 a.m. and drew attention the minutes of the April 25, 2008, meeting, which were distributed by email. The minutes were approved as distributed.
Juror Compensation - Draft Legislation
Chair Medd drew attention to Attachment B (October 17, 2008) - draft legislation regarding juror compensation. He said the draft reflects the Committee’s conclusions at the April 25 meeting. Compensation would be set at $50 per day unless the juror is at the courthouse for four hours or less on the first day, in which case the rate would be $25 for the first day. He noted that juror compensation continues to be a source of concern for jurors who serve in the Northeast Central judicial district.
In response to a question from Chair Medd, staff said if the draft legislation is approved by the Committee, the draft could be recommended to the Supreme Court for consideration and possible introduction under the Supreme Court’s bill introduction privilege.
In response to a question from Judge Marquart, Chair Medd said he had discussed the topic of juror compensation with Chief Justice VandeWalle. He said there is an awareness that there would be some budget considerations but there would likely be a fairly moderate budget impact.
In response to a question from Ron McLean, Judge Marquart said his experience has been that some of the larger employers in the Fargo area do continue to pay their employees when they are called for jury service. Any compensation received by the employee from the judicial system is most often then turned back to the employer. Judge Medd said many employees in the Grand Forks area who are paid hourly do not receive pay from the employer while serving as a juror. Judge Lee said the experience is likely similar in the Minot area.
Following further discussion, it was moved by Judge Marquart, seconded by Robin Huseby, and carried that the draft legislation on juror compensation be recommended to the Supreme Court for consideration.
Juror Boxes and Ballots to Select Jurors - Draft Legislation
Chair Medd next drew attention to Attachment C (October 17, 2008) - draft legislation related to the use of jury boxes and ballots to select jurors. He recalled the Committee’s discussions at previous meetings regarding current statutes ostensibly requiring the use of jury “boxes” and ballots to select jurors. He said the Committee’s general, tentative conclusion was that the statutory process is obsolete and serves no useful purpose. He said while some courts may be using the process, it seems counterproductive when the current jury management system already provides a random list of juror names for selection purposes. He said the draft legislation would repeal the relevant statutes and amend the principal statute to provide that the clerk would select names of prospective jurors from a randomized list developed in accordance with the governing statute and Supreme Court rule.
Judge Fontaine reiterated her comment at the April meeting that a number of judges continue to use the box and ballot method and the process can contribute to the perception of prospective jurors that the selection process is random. She said absent a compelling reason to change the practice she would not support the draft legislation.
Following further discussion, it was moved by Judge Marquart, seconded by Deb Simenson, and carried that the draft legislation be recommended to the Supreme Court for consideration. (Judge Fontaine - no).
Juror Qualification Form - Suggested Change
Chair Medd next drew attention to Attachment D (October 17, 2008) - an email from Deb Simenson suggesting possible revisions to the current qualification form.
Deb Simenson said there seems to be confusion about how to respond to the question on the qualification form related to whether the person has served on a jury during the preceding two years, and if so would like to be excused, and the question regarding whether the person is 72 years of age or older and would like to be excused. She suggested adding the question “Do you wish to serve?”, which may provide an avenue for a more affirmative responses. Additionally, she suggested with respect to the question regarding physical or mental disability that “may” be replaced with “must” regarding the need for written documentation.
Judge Medd wondered whether written documentation of a disqualifying disability would be required if the clerk or judge knew of the disability.
Staff noted that an early concern, when the written documentation provision was initially discussed, was that making documentation from a physician mandatory may pose difficulties for a person in, for example, a rural area who is not close to the treating physician and would have to travel to the physician to obtain the documentation.
After further discussion, it was moved by Deb Simenson, seconded by Mike Waller, and carried that the revisions to questions regarding service within the preceding two years and whether the person is 72 years of age or older be recommended to the State Court Administrator for consideration.
Jury Selection Plan - Proposed Changes
Chair Medd next drew attention to Attachment E (October 17, 2008) - memorandum and proposed revisions to the Jury Selection Plan submitted by Sally Holewa.
Staff said the revisions generally update the selection plan as it currently has references to procedures that are no longer followed with the advent of the new jury management system. He said the revisions also would delete language that simply repeats language already in statute.
Deb Simenson noted the provision on page 6 [Section 8(1)] regarding return of forms by the prospective juror within fifteen days. She noted that the form she uses requires return within five days. She said if given more time a prospective juror may simply set the forms aside and not return them. Judge Medd said his recollection is that return within five days is also required on forms used in his district. Staff noted that the timeframe is not dictated by statute.
Deb Simenson suggested that the first reference to “fifteen” days in Section 8(1) be changed to “five” days. Committee members agreed. The recommendation will be forwarded to Sally Holewa.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 10:45 a.m.
Jim Ganje, Staff