|Members Present |
Judge Norman Backes, Chair
Judge Debbie Kleven
Justice Mary Muehlen Maring
Judge Everett Nels Olson
Judge Bruce Romanick
|Members Absent |
Connie Cleveland, Asst. State's Attorney,
Judge Backes called the meeting to order, informing members that, due to a death in the family, Dale Thompson would not be able to attend.
Judge Backes then called on Connie Cleveland, Assistant State's Attorney for Cass County, who joined the meeting via telephone. Ms. Cleveland explained to the Board that she is assigned to juvenile court cases in Cass County, primarily to deprivation and termination of parental rights cases. She stated in her role she has observed the need for rules of court for juvenile court. She stated it is often confusing as to what rules apply to what proceeding. For example, it is not clear whether discovery is governed by the rules of civil procedure and criminal procedure and probably varies by the type of proceeding - delinquency versus deprivation. The question also exists relating to service of process. Juvenile court cases get very complex because of the number of parties and blending of proceedings. Additionally, problems exist in the appellate process. She cited inconsistencies between requesting a review of a referee's order versus appealing the decision.
Ms. Cleveland thanked the Board and stated she had just wanted to present the concept.
Judge Backes stated that her point was well taken. He pointed out that the only cite to the rules of evidence in the juvenile court is that they do not apply in the disposition stage. Judge Backes noted the problems of the various proceedings and questioned whether a pretrial order customized to the nature of the proceeding would work. Connie Cleveland responded that it might help, but would probably vary from judge to judge and between districts.
Judge Olson asked if other states had rules for juvenile court. Connie Cleveland responded that Minnesota, California, and several other states had such rules. Mary Hall asked if Minnesota's were separate rules or an extension of other rules. Connie Cleveland responded that Minnesota's rules were separate and very extensive.
After discussion, it was the consensus of the Board that development of rules should be pursued. Judge Backes pointed out that rulemaking authority traditionally rested with the Joint Procedure Committee. After discussion, the Board agreed that the best strategy would be to develop draft rules under the auspices of the Juvenile Policy Board and forward them to the Court for submission to the Joint Procedure Committee. Justice Maring and Greg Wallace will talk to the Chief Justice about staff attorney assistance.
Judge Backes then called on Tara Muhlhauser who had joined the meeting via the telephone. Tara reviewed a memo which had been distributed to the Board. The memo pointed out several areas of concern relating to custody investigators. Tara then reviewed an outline of a process that she believes would build a foundation for more uniformity. She stated that expectations of the custody investigator varies from place to place, as well as pay. She also noted that the IVN training has had some drawbacks in terms of quality of training.
Mary Hall asked Tara if the project could be combined with the juvenile court guardian ad litem project. Tara explained that while the background training is similar, the roles and expectations are so different that combining would be difficult.
Judge Olson stated that he agreed that a problem existed. He has used persons who have not completed the training, but are agreeable to the parties with good results, but has run into problems with the way attorneys treat the custody investigator if they disagree. Judge Kleven agreed and added that there is a problem in getting the custody investigator paid.
The Board members pointed out that while it is an issue, the subject area is probably not within the jurisdiction of the Board. After discussion, it was the consensus of the Board that the subject should be referred to the Council of Presiding Judges.
Tara Muhlhauser then reported on the progress of the model guardian ad litem project. She reported that they were about to implement the project in the Southwest district, which will leave only the Northeast and Southeast districts to be implemented by the end of the biennium.
Greg Wallace then reported on legislation. To this point, there has been little action in the juvenile area with the exception of House Bill 1090, which was introduced by the Department of Corrections. That bill would allow the department to inspect juvenile court files prior to placing a child with the Division of Juvenile Services. Greg explained that the judiciary had not been contacted prior to this bill being introduced and that he had called Al Lick to find out why the bill had been introduced. He thought it came from situations where the courts were not notifying the Division of Juvenile Services of cases where the juvenile was going to be placed with them. He stated that he had been involved with the issues in the Southwest district. That district had resolved the issue with the Division of Juvenile Services by setting up a mutually agreeable process. He felt the approach of the Southwest district would be preferable to legislation and will discuss the matter with Al Lick. Judge Backes will call Elaine Little, if necessary.
The Chair then introduced Krista Andrews and Julie Hoffman, representatives from the Department of Human Services. Krista and Julie explained that they are running into problems with court orders that are placing conditions on termination of parental rights orders. For example, some orders are conditioning a termination on the adoption by an identified parent or on the establishment of certain visitation rights. This creates problems in the status of an order if an adoption doesn't take place. Questions also exist as to the ability of a parent whose rights have been terminated to enforce visitation rights.
After discussion recognizing the issue, Justice Maring pointed to a Supreme Court decision that addressed the issue. In a case decided in 2000 (620 NW2d 175, C.R.H. in re), the Court ruled that the district court could not include visitation privileges for the terminated parent.
The Board agreed to forward the case to judges and referees. Ms. Andrews and Ms. Hoffman felt that distribution could probably resolve the issue.
Greg Wallace then reviewed the risk-needs assessment that is being implemented in the juvenile courts. He reported that it is still in the testing stage and that there had been some licensing issues related to the software. He reviewed the general categories that the instrument deals with and the potential use as a case management tool.
Judge Debbie Kleven then reported on the "family court" that is being implemented in the Northeast Central judicial district. Under a "STOP" grant, the court has hired a coordinator to identify cases where families are involved in multiple cases before the court. The court will try to "bundle" the several cases before a single judge. At this point, the district is looking at civil and juvenile cases. It is projected that the bundling will allow for more consistency in terms of how the court deals with a family and should include more efficiencies as a judge becomes familiar with a family. She also explained that the community was establishing a treatment team as part of the court. This should allow the court to have better knowledge, more consistent recommendations, and better follow-up for those families who are multi-agency involved. Members expressed interest in the project and voiced their endorsement of the project. They asked that Judge Kleven keep the Board apprised of the progress.
Greg Wallace then reviewed a plan to conduct management audits of the juvenile court. The concept is consistent with management audits being performed in clerk of court offices, though the juvenile court audits will deal with more policy issues than the clerk offices.
The Committee meeting was adjourned so members could attend the State of the Judiciary Message.