Supreme Court Front Conference Room/Conference Call
April 7, 2006
Justice Carol Ronning Kapsner, Chair Bill Brudvik Judge Sonja Clapp Rep. Lois Delmore Judge Donovan Foughty Referee John Grinsteiner Jim Hill DeWayne Johnston Mark Johnson Courtney Koebele Rep. William Kretschmar Chuck Peterson
Rep. Lois Delmore Joyce Harnden Dorothy Howard Judge Donald Jorgensen Justice Mary Muehlen Maring Deb Simenson
Chair Kapsner called the meeting to order at 9:00 a.m. and welcomed new member DeWayne
Johnston. She then drew Committee members' attention to Attachment B (March 31, 2006) - Minutes
of the October 21, 2005, meeting.
It was moved by Courtney Koebele, seconded by Jim Hill, and carried that the minutes
Pro Se Forms
Chair Kapsner drew attention to Attachment C (March 31, 2006) - a letter from Surrogate Judge
Bruce Bohlman, a member of the Pro Se Forms Subcommittee, with an attached letter from law
students at the UND School of Law Clinical Education Program. Staff said the letter was provided for
Committee review since the students offered assistance in developing additional forms for pro se
litigants. The Committee, he said, would need to consider whether the pro se forms development
project should be expanded to address the additional suggested forms.
Deb Simenson, also a member of the Subcommittee, observed that increasing the number of
forms available to pro se litigants may be overwhelming in the short term. She noted that clerk staff
will likely be spending more time with litigants if the child support forms are approved and her staff
already spend time working with litigants when questions arise about the current simple divorce and
child visitation forms.
Referee Grinsteiner, a member of the Subcommittee, wondered whether there would be greater
resistance from members of the bar if the number of forms available for pro se litigants expands
appreciably. Courtney Koebele agreed and observed that lawyers are often asked to prepare documents
for name changes or healthcare directives and powers of attorney.
Judge Clapp said she handles approximately 25-40 domestic relations summary proceedings
for which forms are available in the Northeast Central judicial district. She cautioned that when divorce
cases become more complicated the parties simply try to complete the forms and then expect the court
to fill in the blanks. She said the judge then is in the uncomfortable position of almost serving as an
attorney for both sides. She expressed concern about potential increased court involvement if more
forms are made available.
Jim Hill noted the suggested forms related to conservatorships, guardianships, and healthcare
directives and cautioned that these kinds of forms are often quite sophisticated and complicated. He
suggested that the Committee at this point not proceed much further with development of new forms.
In response to a question from Chair Kapsner there was general agreement that development
of forms for pro se litigants should not be expanded at this time. DeWayne Johnston suggested law
students might be useful as a resource to develop information to assist in the use of current forms and
to lay a foundation for future development of additional forms.
Committee members then generally reviewed the initial draft forms and revisions prepared by
the Pro Se Forms Subcommittee: modification of child support, stipulation to stop child support, a
property and debt listing for the simple divorce forms, and revisions to the simple divorce forms to
remove personal identifying information such as SSANs and financial account numbers. See
Attachment D (March 31, 2006). Staff noted that more work will be done on the draft forms and
revisions but they are submitted here for initial review by the Committee. He noted that the Instructions
for the child support forms are a first, rough draft.
With respect to the General Information section of the child support modification instructions,
Justice Kapsner suggested the reference in the lead paragraph to a hearing before a "district judge" be
changed since hearings are often held before a judicial referee.
Deb Simenson observed that reference to the judicial district number would be deleted from
Step1a of the instructions.
With respect to the motion, brief, and notice of motion form, Rep. Kretschmar suggested
"plaintiff/obligor" and "defendant/obligee" be used in the body of the form to avoid any confusion
about who the respective parties are.
Judge Clapp asked whether regional child support offices will receive notice of the motion to
modify child support.
Judge Foughty left the meeting at 9:30 a.m. to attend to a previously scheduled matter.
There were no suggested changes to the draft financial affidavit form or the affidavit of service
Committee members next reviewed the draft instructions and stipulation to stop child support
included in Attachment D (March 31, 2006). Referee Grinsteiner explained that similar forms have
been used in the South Central judicial district to address situations in which the parties, because they
have reunited, request that a child support obligation not be enforced.
Justice Kapsner asked whether the obligor should receive some kind of notice if the obligee
later decides that payment of child support should be reinstated.
Committee members next reviewed the draft property and debt listing form and revisions related
to the current simple divorce forms.
Staff explained that the draft property and debt listing form was prepared by the Subcommittee
in response to a request from Judge Debbie Kleven, previously reviewed by the Committee, that such
a form be included in the simple divorce forms. There were no suggested revisions to the draft form.
Staff explained that the revisions to the Instructions for the simple divorce form and revisions
to the Settlement Agreement, Findings of Fact ...., and Judgment forms reflect either the deletion of
requests for an SSAN or financial account numbers, or a request for only the last four digits of an
account number. These revisions, he said, are consistent with restrictions imposed under Rule 3.1,
Rules of Court, regarding the inclusion of personal identifying information in court pleadings. There
were no additional revisions concerning personal information.
Staff noted that Dorothy Howard, who was unable to attend the meeting, had drawn attention
to paragraph 4 on page 11 of the Instructions for the simple divorce forms, which tells the parties that
the "clerk's office" will inform them of the date, time, and location of the hearing if one is required.
He said Ms. Howard suggested the reference to the clerk's office should be deleted since clerk staff,
particularly in Cass County, are often not involved in scheduling hearings and sending notices.
Committee members agreed the reference should be deleted, leaving a generic reference regarding
notification of hearing specifics.
Chair Kapsner asked that Committee members submit any additional comments on the draft
forms or revisions to staff.
At the request of Chair Kapsner, staff reviewed Attachment F (March 31, 2006) - draft
amendments to Rule 8.6, Rules of Court, regarding custody investigator qualifications prepared by the
Custody Investigator Subcommittee. He said the draft amendments would make the current, suggested
qualifications mandatory. He said the draft amendments additionally, in paragraph (a)(3), would
change the requirement regarding 6 hours of annual training to a requirement that 18 hours of training
be completed every 3 years. He said the Subcommittee's initial conclusion is that such a change would
provide more flexibility in providing training programs. He said the Subcommittee has additional
meetings scheduled at which rule amendments regarding a complaint review process will be reviewed.
There were no suggested changes to the initial draft amendments.
Chair Kapsner then drew attention to Attachment E (March 31, 2006) - a letter from Sally
Holewa, State Court Administrator, outlining various custody investigator issues discussed by the
Staff noted that the Subcommittee has tentatively discussed issues concerning how complaints
will be reviewed and the removal from or placement on the custody investigator roster. Matters
concerning the roster, he said, would likely be addressed as part of any rule arrangement providing for
review of complaints and possible sanctions. He said the Subcommittee has briefly discussed the issue
concerning custody investigator fees but has not pursued the matter at this point.
With respect to fees, Judge Clapp said the judges in the Northeast Central judicial district had
adopted a policy setting the hourly fee for custody investigators. She said reimbursements to the county
are generally limited to $1500 to protect the county from possible budget issues. She said she would
forward a copy of the policy to staff.
In response to a question from Chair Kapsner, Committee members agreed the Subcommittee
should review the issues concerning how fees are established and the amount of fees.
With respect to the draft amendments to Rule 8.6, Chuck Peterson asked whether mandating
an Associate degree in child care or children's services under paragraph (a)(1) would create a problem
for attorneys who currently serve as custody investigators. Committee members agreed the
Subcommittee should review the issue.
Staff said DeAnn Pladson, a member of the Subcommittee, will continue work on the custody
investigator training manual for which an outline is provided in Attachment F (March 31, 2006). He
said the manual will likely be a resource available for training programs but would not be a part of the
formal rule amendments developed by the Subcommittee.
Chair Kapsner briefly reviewed rule amendments recently adopted by the Supreme Court which
establish term limits (a limit of three 3-year terms) for Committees that currently do not have term
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 10:15 a.m.