Chief Justice VandeWalle introduced Louis Hentzen to members of the Council and indicated he would be working directly with the trial court personnel as the Assistant State Court Administrator for the Trial Courts. Thereafter, it was moved and seconded to approve the minutes of the April 21, 2004 meeting. Motion carried.
Draft Policy 517
Discussion then focused on the draft of Policy 517. It was moved and seconded to adopt the policy with the deletion of the last sentence of the policy providing that payments are to be applied to current fines or fees before satisfying civil judgments. Motion carried.
Indigent Defense Supplemental Funds
Susan Sisk reviewed her memorandum and recommendations to the Council concerning the distribution of indigent defense supplemental funds for the second year of the biennium. Based on anticipated income of approximately $1,605,000 into the courthouse improvement and remodeling fund and the indigent defense administration fund. The staff request is to commit $595,000 for indigent defense services. Of that, $350,000 would be allocated to the Northeast, East Central, and South Central Judicial Districts. Forty-two thousand five hundred twenty-two dollars would be allocated to the four remaining judicial districts. The remainder has already been allocated based on initial estimates of income into the fund. This proposal would not only increase the fees received by attorneys in the rural areas, it would keep the hourly rates in line amongst the seven judicial districts. By allocating $392,522 to the contract attorneys, the average rate per hour would be increased from $52 to $63.75 per hour or a 22% increase statewide. This recommendation assures that there will be an adequate reserve to fund any extraordinary expenses and also address any possible decline in income from the administrative fee assessments.
Judge Paulson questioned what attempts are being made toward collections in the seven judicial districts. He felt that incentives need to be established to enhance collection levels. He stated that there is a need to develop a protocol for collections, statewide.
Susan Sisk indicated she is working on a proposal to address accounts receivable. Indigent defense recoupment will be included in the proposal presentation to the Council. The indigent defense guidelines do not contemplate reducing costs for services to civil judgement.
Discussion then focused on nonrenewal of contracts. Ted Gladden reviewed the suggestion that had been made a year ago by Greg Wallace that assignments should not be made within the last 30 days of a contract termination. After further discussion, it was concluded that assignments will continue through the end of a contract. As it relates to payments in complicated cases, Mr. Gladden pointed out that all contracts have a provision that attorneys can request additional compensation from the sitting judge if they feel that the case is taking an extraordinary amount of time or they are incurring extraordinary expenses. It was concluded that this provision in the contract should adequately address concerns of contract counsel.
Discussion then focused on supplemental appropriation for the guardian ad litem program for lay guardians ad litem for juvenile cases. A request received from Judge Lee Christofferson and Paul Ronningen of the Department of Human Services is that $125,000 additional funds be allocated for the lay guardian ad litem program. The need for these funds is due to federal cutbacks and an increase in the use of the lay guardians ad litem. The increase has been due to time spent on old cases from prior years. This results in an overspending on these continuation cases and that will probably not decline in the near future. That, coupled with the loss of federal funds will result in a projected shortage of necessary funds of $134,000. The committee is looking at ways to reduce the overhead and manage the funds as effectively as possible.
Ms. Sisk also recommended that $25,000 be set aside in a statewide pool for funding investigative services on indigent defense cases.
It was moved and seconded to approve the commitment of $392,592 as follows:
1. Approve $392,522 of the Indigent Defense Administration Fund continuing appropriation for increases to contracts (schedule was distributed to the members at the meeting).
2. An additional $53,424 be available for extraordinary expenses at the State Court Administrator’s discretion.
3. Allocate $125,000 to the lay guardian ad litem program.
4. Set aside $25,000 in a statewide pool for case related costs, such as investigators and depositions, etc.
Staff was directed to look at the development of a recoupment assessment policy for consideration by the Council at the next meeting. It was concluded that in reviewing the indigent defense guidelines, they do not contemplate reducing the nonpayment of fees to civil judgment.
It was moved and seconded to direct staff to develop a procedure for establishing an indigent defense assessment process. Motion carried.
Rule 43 Waiver for Game & Fish Violations
Discussion then focused on the Game & Fish Rule 43 Waiver process. It was pointed out that these are warrantless arrests and Game & Fish enforcement officers are to use a promise to appear. There was considerable discussion that clerks should not be involved in the issuance process of Rule 43 Waivers. After further discussion, it was moved and seconded that the Court Administrator’s Office contact clerks of court indicating they are no longer to prepare or distribute Rule 43 Waivers for Game & Fish violations. Motion carried.
Administrative Transition Update
Ted Gladden then reviewed progress toward the administrative reorganization effective August 1. He indicated that meetings will be set up in each administrative unit involving the clerks of court, directors of juvenile court, and administrative personnel to discuss issues and concerns for possible consideration by the new Administrative Council. It was suggested that there should be representation from the contract counties. After further discussion, it was agreed that the presiding judges would submit the name of one representative from each administrative unit to participate on behalf of the contract county clerks to the State Court Administrator.
For the Good of the Order
Judge Paulson inquired about the types of changes that were being contemplated relating to the juvenile court structure. Mr. Gladden responded that there were issues external to the juvenile court that related to the role of the juvenile court and the petition preparation process, serving subpoenas, mailing summonses, and service by publication. He indicated there are also internal issues that need to be addressed in regard to the supervision and management of the juvenile court personnel. The current system is not effective having 12 directors of juvenile court setting policy direction for the juvenile courts.
Chief Justice VandeWalle then discussed a presentation to an interim committee on sentencing. He identified that there are issues relating to crowding and mandatory sentencing that need to be discussed by the interim committee. He stated that Justice Maring would cover a portion of the presentation relating to the impact by the drug courts, and this is an issues that is currently under study.
Mr. Gladden suggested that the meeting on June 8 be canceled and that the one item having to do with staffing requests for the coming biennium be held by conference call. This suggestion was acceptable.