Judge Norman Backes, Chair
Judge Benny Graff
Judge Donald Jorgensen
Judge Everett Nels Olson
Justice William Neumann
Judge Lee Christofferson
Judge Backes called the meeting to order and asked Greg Wallace to report on the juvenile court staffing standards project.
Greg Wallace stated that prior to the Board reviewing the report he had some preliminary observations. He stated staffing standards in the juvenile court is not an exact science. There are many intangibles which cannot be accounted for in caseloads or time studies. The duties of the office go beyond those things which are easy to count, such as number of informal adjustments held. He stated that he believed the districts had been conservative and responsible in requesting staff and that requests have been based on real needs.
The report looks at three methods of comparing staffing needs -- population, caseload, and workload. The workload measures, in light of implementing balanced and restorative justice, are tentative. He emphasized that implementing balanced and restorative justice is a long-term process. While the direction and philosophy is known, exactly how implementation will take place is not immediately known. Much depends on what is available in the community and the community's ability and willingness to institute programs and service. Thus, exactly how victim/offender accountability meetings will be conducted is not completely known, nor is how the victim will be involved, or how meaningful restitution programs will be implemented.
The report contains information comparing staffing levels between districts. Greg reported that the first 10 pages of the report, written by Doug Thomas of the National Center for Juvenile Justice, contains some interesting, independent observations. Mr. Thomas pointed out that , "There appeared to be a high degree of agreement among the Directors regarding the critical tasks of juvenile court services and how to conduct those tasks. Similarly, while no statewide standards or criteria were mentioned, there was widespread agreement and uniformity among Directors regarding decision criteria for handling cases informally versus handling them formally."
Further, he addresses preparing petitions on page 8 of the report. He states that the juvenile court directors agree that petition related work should be placed with the state's attorney and that unruly cases should only be handled after other community resources have been exhausted. The report also emphasizes how policy decisions from within the court and from others has significant impact on staffing needs.
Greg called the Board's attention to page 8 of the report, which compares staffing levels based on youth populations of 0-17. The population figures come from the 1996 "Kids Count" report. Under this method, the total population is divided by 42, resulting in a state average of one court officer for every 4,100 youth. That number is divided back into the districts population giving the number of staff per district. Using this method, the East Central and South Central districts have the lowest staff ratio with the Northwest and Northeast Central having the highest ratio. Greg pointed out that this method ignores travel requirements and local practice, including arrest and prosecutorial discretion, as well as community resources.
Greg then reviewed with the Board the district planning meeting that had been conducted in six of the seven judicial districts. Information was collected relating to practices, procedures, time estimates, and views on implementing the balanced approach, including staffing needs. The site visits and case processing data show that the courts are diverting minor offenders. For example, 87% of curfew, 71% of shoplifting, 49% of minor in possession, and 85% of all tobacco referrals are diverted out.
In addition to the site visits, a time study was conducted by court officers in November, 1998. Greg reviewed the methodology of the time study and special considerations, including travel, petition work, and time devoted to probation. The time study found general consistency in how long it takes to complete activities and the percent of staff time devoted to those activities.
Greg then reviewed the developing standards based on caseload. Under this scenario the number of referrals to the juvenile court were used as a basis for comparing staffing levels, assuming 42 staff. The cases referred directly to the Police Youth Bureau in the South Central district were subtracted from the state and district totals for these calculations. The result, while different in number, shows the same general trend as population projections. That is, the East Central and South Central districts are low in staffing ratio and the Northeast Central and Northwest districts are at the higher end.
Greg then reviewed workload as a way of comparing staffing levels. Under this method, the time it takes to complete activities is applied against caseload data to develop workload measures. For example, on the average, it takes 37 minutes to complete an informal adjustment. That times the number of informal adjustments equals a workload of 3500 hours per year for informal adjustments, statewide. The time taken to complete activities matched with other items, such as travel results in a workload table. The results are similar to the other measures, population and caseload. Greg stated that this method carries some inherent problems, in particular, decisions on how cases are processed will affect the workload.
He then called the Board's attention to the summary which compares the three methods and outlines the biases of each method. He suggested that the Board recommend using caseload data as the standard. Using this method would, he recommended that the temporary positions (one half-time in the Northeast district and the full-time in the Northeast Central) be filled as regular employees. This leaves .5 FTE unfilled, which could be moved to the East Central or South Central district.
Judge Backes then opened for comments. Judge Christofferson pointed out that the report is based on current staff and doesn't document the future needs of the courts. He expressed concern with dividing up half-time employees here and there based on current practice. Greg reported that Judge Christofferson was correct and that ultimately the project will develop staffing models. However, as pointed out in the report, there are a number of policy issues at the state and local levels that needed to be addressed and that staff requirements need to be part of those decisions.
The Board discussed the merits of the three models and the problems with each. The members then discussed the recommendations within the report. Judge Backes pointed out that the Board could forward the report to the Court without recommendations, defer a recommendation to a later date, or proceed with the information at hand. He mentioned that the judiciary has talked about standards for years and a document laying out possible standards is now before the Board. While, perhaps, not perfect, they appear reasonable.
Justice Neumann stated that the Board could forward the report without recommendations. However, he felt the Court would appreciate a statement by the Board as to filling the positions.
Mary Hall stated that, in light of the numbers of all three methods, it would be hard to recommend filling the half-time position in Grand Forks. Though her district might be one of the beneficiaries, it appears that the position should be moved to either the South Central or East Central district.
Dennis Herbeck stated that he felt the numbers do not always tell the whole story. He felt that he had been responsible in the previous request for new positions and pointed out taking his district back to six FTE, places them at the same staffing level he was at 20 years ago. He pointed out that two years ago the directors had met on staffing needs and recommended three positions to the presiding judges. He felt the directors were responsible in those recommendations and jointly they had a good feel for the workload. He felt the report was complete, but certain intangibles cannot be captured in numbers.
The Board discussed the report and potential consequences of not filling the currently unfilled half-time positions. Members expressed concern that a vacant position may be taken by the legislature.
MARY HALL MOVED THAT THE FULL-TIME POSITION CURRENTLY FILLED ON A TEMPORARY BASES IN THE NORTHEAST CENTRAL JUDICIAL DISTRICT BE MADE A FULL-TIME REGULAR PERMANENT POSITION. JUDGE JORGENSEN SECONDED THE MOTION, WHICH PASSED.
JUDGE JORGENSEN MOVED THAT THE HALF-TIME POSITION CURRENTLY FILLED ON A TEMPORARY BASIS IN THE NORTHEAST JUDICIAL DISTRICT BE FILLED AS A HALF-TIME REGULAR POSITION. THE MOTION WAS SECONDED AND PASSED.
The Board then discussed whether to recommend filling the remaining half-time position in the East Central or South Central district. There was a consensus that the position should not be permanently assigned to a district at this time until further work in implementing balanced and restorative justice is complete.
MARY HALL MOVED THAT THE REMAINING HALF-TIME POSITION THAT IS CURRENTLY UNFILLED BE FILLED ON A TEMPORARY BASIS IN EITHER THE SOUTH CENTRAL OR EAST CENTRAL JUDICIAL DISTRICT. The Board asked the presiding judges of the East Central and South Central districts to discuss their needs with their directors of juvenile court and provide you with a recommendation as to where to fill it. The board suggests the position be left as a temporary position until suggested staffing models, based on full implementation of balanced and restorative justice, are complete. THE MOTION WAS SECONDED AND PASSED.
Judge Backes adjourned the meeting.