Judge Benny Graff
Judge M. Richard Geiger
Judge Richard Grosz representing Judge
John T. Paulson
Judge Robert Holte
Judge Debbie Kleven
Judge Allan Schmalenberger
Chief Justice Gerald W. VandeWalle
Judge Michael McGuire
Presiding Judge Graff opened the meeting indicating Chief Justice VandeWalle would not be in attendance and he had been asked to preside.
IT WAS MOVED, SECONDED, AND CARRIED THAT THE MINUTES OF THE JULY 15, 2002, MEETING WERE APPROVED AS DISTRIBUTED.
Draft Policy on Trial Court Employee Personnel Files
Ted Gladden reviewed the draft policy on trial court employee personnel files. There was concern raised that the policy may create a problem as the policy recognizes the maintenance of two files, one at the trial court level and one at the state court administrator's office. After considerable discussion, IT WAS MOVED TO AMEND LANGUAGE ON PAGE 2 OF THE POLICY, FIRST PARAGRAPH, SO IT WOULD READ: "AN EMPLOYEE WISHING TO REVIEW THEIR PERSONNEL FILE" AND DELETE "THAT EMPLOYEE'S", and ask that the file be reviewed by an attorney with labor law expertise and the matter be placed on the agenda at a future meeting. THE MOTION CARRIED.
North Dakota Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission - Member Appointment
The next agenda item had to do with the appointment of a member to the North Dakota Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission. Administrative Rule 18 provides that one judge shall be appointed from a list of nominations submitted by the Council of Presiding Judges. After discussion, Judge Kleven indicated she would contact Judge Fontaine to see if she would be willing to be nominated to this Commission.
Proposed Civil Case Management Rule
The next item related to the proposed civil case management rule. Judge Schmalenberger reviewed the civil case management procedures provided in this administrative rule draft. The draft was prepared by the Caseflow Management Committee. He indicated he is following these procedures in his district. The procedures support monitoring of intermediate timeframes resulting in timely disposition of civil cases. The administrative rule calls for the establishment of three-track, complex, standard, and expedited "civil case administration". For the most part, attorneys will select which track the case should be on. Judge Geiger expressed concerns that were raised about the rule at the April 25-26 Joint Procedure Committee meeting. A copy of Justice Sandstrom's letter was included in the materials highlighting the concerns. Judge Geiger indicated the biggest concerns discussed at the meeting were objections by bar members having to do with the court's role in case management. It was expressed that many are of the position that courts should not be involved in case management until requested by the attorneys. There was sentiment expressed at the meeting that the court needs to assure case processing time standards for all cases. It is a critical concern relating to public confidence if cases are not managed by the courts. There was a sentiment expressed that the courts receive the blame if cases are not moving in a timely fashion. This rule would provide a mechanism to ensure cases are being monitored and processed timely.
After further discussion, IT WAS MOVED, SECONDED, AND PASSED THAT THE PROPOSAL SHOULD BE DISTRIBUTED FOR COMMENT.
Jury Statistics Report
Ted Gladden then reviewed the jury standards report for the second quarter. Judge Wefald had raised concerns over how the data is collected and analyzed. Judge Geiger asked that this matter be placed on the agenda based on Judge Wefald's letter. Ted Gladden contacted Tom Munsterman of the National Center for State Courts for his review and analysis of the report, which was provided to the Council of Presiding Judges. The thrust of the concern relates to the need to consider actual challenges used not an arbitrary figure created by the standard. We would use the actual number challenged or the standard, whichever was less, to determine the actual cost of unused jurors. The opinion was expressed that the cost column should be deleted as the report is having the desired effect that jury management is becoming more routinized in all judicial districts. There was a sense we need to review and possibly amend the jury selection plan.
After further discussion, IT WAS MOVED, SECONDED, AND APPROVED THAT THE JURY SELECTION PLAN BE REFERRED TO THE JURY STANDARDS COMMITTEE FOR POSSIBLE AMENDMENT.
Policy 513 was then discussed. Ted Gladden circulated a letter from the Honorable David Nelson, chair of the Trial Court Operations Committee, wherein a request was made to amend Section B of the policy to read: "The chief justice shall appoint a district judge to serve as the committee chair." IT WAS MOVED, SECONDED, AND APPROVED THAT THE AMENDED POLICY BE ADOPTED.
Ted Gladden provided the general comments regarding the budget in terms of the steps that had been taken to this point in the budget preparation process. The format used in prior legislative sessions was followed in that trial court administrative personnel were asked to develop district budgets based on actual need. Each district was then asked to reduce their operating budget to reflect 0% growth. When completed the budgets were at 109% of the current biennium budgets. The budget was then provided to the Supreme Court as direction was needed in terms of reducing the budget further.
Susan Sisk then discussed the budget as submitted. She indicated there was $387,000 included for drug courts statewide. This is an increase of $88,000 from the current biennium and will be used to fund the new juvenile drug court in Bismarck. Of the $387,000, approximately $100,000 are general fund dollars. In response to a question, she indicated that $60,000 of this general fund request is for tracking services that are currently being provided by Lutheran Social Services.
Judge Geiger then spoke in support of the $218,000 request for the proposed employee pay and classification plan. This is a work product of the Personnel Policy Board that has gone on for nearly two years. He felt the work effort was substantial and was equivalent to the work that had gone into bringing the clerks into the state system. The consultant recommended there be 23 job classifications instead of the 17 classifications in our present system. The proposal provides for greater fairness for all employees and would address the reclassifications currently pending. Judge Schmalenberger provided perspective of how the original classification plan was implemented in the early 1980's when there were limited funds available. He stated we have been able to fund pay increases for our employees even when there was no new money available. Judge Holte spoke in favor of keeping the $218,000 in the budget for the new pay and classification plan.
There was some sentiment that the new drug court for Bismarck should be treated as a new initiative and that any money for this drug court should be requested from the legislature as a new initiative and should not be included in our budget.
It was discussed that by reducing the budget to zero growth without considering salary increases for judges, they were being consistent with how salary increases were proposed for the employees.
After considerable further discussion, IT WAS MOVED AND SECONDED TO APPROVE ALL OF THE REDUCTIONS, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE PROPOSED SALARY INCREASES FOR JUDGES, CONTAINED IN MS. SISK'S MEMORANDUM OF OCTOBER 4, 2002, WHICH INCLUDED:
$137,796 REFEREE POSITION IN SE DISTRICT
182,050 TEMPORARY SALARIES OTHER THAN JURY
218,621 IMPLEMENTATION OF PROPOSED PAY PLAN
102,900 IT - INTERACTIVE TELEVISION
120,000 IT - DIGITAL AUDIO RECORDING
128,269 IT - CASE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM REVIEW
176,744 IT - ELECTRONIC FILING
150,000 OUT-OF-STATE TRAVEL (CUTS TRAVEL IN HALF)
157,055 OTHER OPERATING
155,959 JUDGES SALARY INCREASES (REDUCES FROM 4% TO 3% ER YEAR)
1,227,822 INDIGENT DEFENSE
ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS RECOMMENDED FOR REDUCTION:
$ 88,894 DRUG COURT ($21,512 FEDERAL FUNDS AND $67,382 GENERAL FUNDS)
15,000 CUSTODY INVESTIGATOR TRAINING
399,802 INDIGENT DEFENSE INCREASE (10% OVER CURRENT CONTRACTS)
352,606 CONTRACT PAYMENTS FOR COUNTY CLERK OPERATIONS
108,789 IT - ENHANCED RECORD MANAGEMENT
$3,723,226 TOTAL REDUCTION
IT WAS THEN MOVED AND SECONDED TO RECOMMEND TO THE SUPREME COURT THAT IT SUPPORT IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NEW PAY AND CLASSIFICATION PLAN, BUT WITHOUT FUNDING. THE MOTION CARRIED.
Discussion then focused on the recommendations to the Supreme Court regarding setting priorities for the programs and initiatives that were deleted. IT WAS MOVED THAT THE NUMBER 1 PRIORITY SHOULD BE FOR A 5% INCREASE FOR INDIGENT DEFENSE SERVICES. THE NUMBER 2 PRIORITY WAS FOR $218,000 TO BE REINSERTED INTO THE BUDGET FOR THE PAY AND CLASSIFICATION PLAN. After further discussion, THE MOTION PASSED.
Proposed Amendments to Protection Order Forms
The next item related to the proposed amendments to the temporary and permanent protection orders. Mr. Gladden indicated that the forms were before the Council for approval per requests from Judges Bohlman and Simonson. They are North Dakota representatives working on the design of a regional interstate domestic violence protection order format, including representatives from North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, and Montana. The request was that respondent identifiers be included on the first page of the order along with the certificate of compliance. Mr. Gladden stated state court administrative staff had consulted with representatives from the state Domestic Violence Protection Program and the local Bismarck program on the proposed amendments. Concern was raised over the inclusion of the data element for obtaining a social security number of the respondent. Mr. Gladden was directed to visit with staff regarding whether this form meets federal regulations for gathering social security numbers.
A MOTION WAS MADE, SECONDED, AND PASSED TO CIRCULATE THE FORMS FOR COMMENT.
Child Support Calculators
Kurt Schmidt then discussed the automated child support calculator that has been provided as part of our information system. He was not looking for action from the Council, but wanted them to know what had been developed and how it was working, as well as the plan for making the calculator available to all judges, referees, and others in the state. Judge Kleven indicated she had been part of the test group working on the calculator and felt that it worked well and would reduce the amount of time necessary for the calculation of child support payments. Mr. Gladden indicated that based on the success of this initiative the administrative office hopes to provide a link for the calculator through the state court internet website so it would be available for private citizens and attorneys to use in their own calculations.
Ted Gladden reviewed the memorandum of Greg Wallace on staffing standards of October 3, 2002. While this activity was initiated in June in response to personnel budget requests being prepared by administrative offices for the trial courts, the question was whether this had any impact since it was questionable whether any personnel requests would be included as part of the judicial budget. Mr. Gladden indicated there was still need for it as we still have to deal with requests to refill position vacancies. In response to a question, he indicated it could be used for a reduction-in-force process in the future should that become necessary. There was agreement the memorandum of Mr. Wallace should be put in policy format and circulated to judges and personnel for comment. The policy will be drafted for consideration at the next meeting.
Judge Geiger questioned the status of personnel requests pending. Mr. Gladden indicated that they should not be held up and that a recommendation will be made to the chief justice for consideration by the court regarding the deputy clerk vacancy in the Northeast judicial district and the half-time judicial referee position in the South Central judicial district.
Transcript and Rate Increase Request
Discussion then focused on the request by Ms. Sharon Fox of the Shorthand Reporters Association for a rate increase for transcripts. After discussion, IT WAS MOVED AND SECONDED TO RECOMMEND TO THE SUPREME COURT THAT POLICY 206A BE AMENDED TO INSERT COMPENSATION OF $2.50 PER PAGE FOR THE ORIGINAL AND 50¢ PER PAGE FOR COPIES. THE MOTION CARRIED.
Indigent Defense Services
The Council then reviewed funding for indigent defense services as provided in Mr. Wallace's memorandum of August 22, 2002. Mr. Gladden pointed out that Mr. Wallace requested that a subcommittee be appointed from the Council of Presiding Judges to review district practices on appointment procedures. Judge Kleven indicated the Indigent Defense Commission created the guidelines for appointment. While it would take a good deal of time to monitor the activities, she felt this was the responsibility of the Commission to review the guidelines and their implementation. Judge Schmalenberger indicated that in the Southwest district staff handle the appointment process. Not only does it relieve this administrative burden from the judge, but there is greater consistency for the appointment process.
No action was taken on the request for appointment of the subcommittee as there was consensus the issue of appointment consistency between districts is the responsibility of the Indigent Defense Commission.
The discussion then focused on the cost for appointment of guardians ad litem in domestic cases and how the appointment of both lay custody investigators as well as legally trained custody investigator. Judge Kleven indicated there are no standards in terms of what should be paid. Staff was asked to inquire on what is being paid around the state for the appointment of lay and legally trained custody investigators.
Ted Gladden indicated he had just completed a management review of the Devils Lake municipal court and the report is being prepared. He and Judge Schmalenberger had traveled to Stutsman County to review case assignment practices. It was then discussed that there is value in sharing suggestions between judicial districts about various operating practices. Judge Schmalenberger stated that based on sending personnel to the Northeast Central judicial district, they have now changed how the judgments are being prepared. There was agreement that there is value in sharing strategies that work between districts. There was a question raised about the level of travel occurring for juvenile case related activities. There was a sense that much of this travel could be eliminated if recommendations of the juvenile court are served on the parties in advance of the proceedings as staff do not need to travel for initial proceedings.
Mr. Gladden indicated he is asking the support and cooperation of all the presiding judges to scrutinize and support greater travel coordination on the part of all personnel. He indicated there are funds that can be saved if there is an emphasis placed on the need for ride sharing. This will become more necessary due to budget reductions. He began the process of notifying administrative offices, clerk offices, juvenile offices on October 3rd.
The meeting adjourned.