It was moved and seconded that the minutes of the October 17, 2003, meeting be approved. Motion carried.
The Council then reviewed the proposed amendments to Policy 505 and the comments that had been received. There was general acceptance for the policy amendments with some revisions suggested. Staff was directed to strike the letter “A” in Section 10.
Discussion then focused on one of the issues raised about proper procedure for handling cases as outlined in Rebecca Absey’s comments relating to the Section 2, Informal Probates. The question she raised related to the language wherein the clerk is directed to reopen the case if there is need for judicial action by a district judge. Her question was when an annual report is filed and the judge needs to sign that document, should the case be reopened. After considerable discussion, there was a consensus that the case should not be reopened just for the administrative function of signing an annual report. The Council approved the amended policy and directed that it be referred to the Trial Court Operation for a clear definition of when cases should be reopened.
Indigent Defense Status Report
Greg Wallace reviewed the status of the administrative process that has been put in place in the state at the direction of the Council of Presiding Judges. The process that has been in place for some years in the Southwest Judicial District where staff do the initial screening approving or disproving applications for indigent defense services has now been implemented in the South Central and Northeast Central Judicial Districts.
Greg Wallace directed the Council members to the written procedures that have been developed for staff in the Northeast Central Judicial District and commended it to the districts for their consideration as they implement administrative processes. He indicated he had met with the judges of the Northeast Judicial District on November 10 to discuss an administrative process. It was agreed that a pilot project would be initiated in Walsh County under the direction of Judge Geiger for administrative processing of indigent defense applications.
Mr. Wallace indicated that the Northwest Judicial District has discussed the development of administrative process but at the present time there are some staffing issues that need to be addressed. He indicated that there is interest in exploring a process to implement administrative handling of these matters in the district and it will be pursued.
Mr. Wallace indicated that the East Central Judicial District is looking at initiating an administrative process in January 2004. He stated that he has not visited with the judges in the Southeast Judicial District but is in the process of setting a meeting with the judges to explore an administrative process for that district.
Assignment of Counsel in Juvenile Cases
An issue as arisen regarding payment of counsel in juvenile cases where the parents are not indigent but do not want to pay for counsel. He stated that in some districts, attorneys do not mind assuming the responsibility of the assignment with the understanding that they will have to bill the payments as they can bill at their regular rate. The issue becomes one of when there is an adverse interest between the parent and the child, how does the attorney get paid short of a civil judgment or some other legal remedy. After considerable discussion, it was agreed that until the contracts can be reviewed and revised in the next contract cycle, the court should appoint the indigent defense contractor to the case and authorize additional compensation. The parents should be ordered as part of the process to reimburse the state. While this action will tend to increase the reimbursement rate for attorneys, it will reduce available indigent defense dollars because reimbursement will go to the state general fund. It was moved and seconded to approved the above option (option 4) as an interim solution and amend indigent defense contracts for the next cycle to cover these appointments as part of future contracts. Motion carried.
Suggested revisions to Policy 510 were discussed which gives the Chief Justice the authority to make appointments beyond the membership outlined in the policy as he deems appropriate. There has been interest in representation from the federal judiciary and there was a sense that this would be a valuable addition to the committee. It was moved and seconded that the proposed policy amendments of the Council of Presiding Judges be approved. Motion carried.
Municipal Court Cases
Judge Backes inquired of the policy of the Council regarding district court’s handling municipal ordinance violations. After discussion, it was concluded that the Council has taken a position limiting authority of districts to accept municipal court cases. Mr. Gladden was asked to distribute that policy to the members.
Disorderly Conduct Restraining Orders Forms Revision
Ted Gladden reviewed the proposed amendments to the present restraining order. After discussion, there was some sentiment that there should be some amendments to the proposed forms. It was moved and seconded that the form with the revisions prepared by Judge Geiger be distributed for comment. Motion carried.
Trial Court Administrative Report
Ted Gladden discussed the issue of jury expenses in the Northwest Judicial District. Judge Holte indicated that Wally Kowitz was reviewing the matter but that it appeared the increased costs were due to an increased number of jury trials that were unanticipated.
Mr. Gladden also discussed the progress being made in the East Central Judicial District to purge unnecessary documents from case files. He stated that in October and November, the clerk’s office had gone to the records storage facility and, during that time period, disposed of 3,600 lbs of unneeded documents. Mr. Gladden pointed out that this is going to become a critical issue in many counties of our state as space in the courthouse is used up and there is need to go to commercial storage facilities.
Ted Gladden brought it to the Council’s attention that Brenda Neubauer is no longer serving as a public defender. There was discussion about filling that vacancy. The names of a number of public defenders were mentioned to fill that vacancy. Chief Justice VandeWalle indicated he would make an appointment to fill that vacancy.
A sample of the proposed Appendix A for sexual offenders was distributed. Judge Paulson indicated that all the judges of the Southeast District had received the proposed amendment to Appendix A. Other judges indicated that they had also received the proposed revisions. There was a sense that these forms should first go to the states attorneys for their review and concurrence. Ted Gladden was directed to attend the meeting on December 2 with probation and parole representatives.
Chief Justice VandeWalle discussed the issue of payment for service of process. He indicated that he felt Mark Johnson and the Association of Counties need to get county people involved in this so that if there are going to be requests that have a negative impact on our budget, they can be prepared and discussed. It is not productive to start receiving bills for items that have not been budgeted for and cannot be considered, as has been the case up to this point.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.