|Members Present |
Justice William A. Neumann, Chair
Judge James Bekken
Sister Thomas Welder
|Members Absent |
Judge Gail Hagerty
Rep. Kathy Hawken
Chair Neumann called the meeting to order at 10:10 a.m. and drew Committee members' attention to Attachment B (August 23, 2001) - minutes of the July 19, 2001, meeting.
It was moved by Dick Weber, seconded by Connie Sprynczynatyk, and carried unanimously that the minutes be approved.
Bar Association Education Programs and Services
At the request of Chair Neumann, Carol Vondrachek distributed and reviewed information describing public education programs and services provided through the state bar association. A copy of the material is attached as an Appendix. She explained that many of the association's public education efforts are supported through the IOLTA grant program, which derives its funding from interest accruing on client funds lawyers are required to deposit in trust accounts. In response to a question from Sr. Thomas Welder, she said the association pays direct out of pocket expenses, such as supplies, for lawyers participating in the Volunteer Lawyer Program (VLP), through which lawyers provide legal services on a volunteer basis to those with limited income.
In response to a question from Connie Sprynczynatyk concerning attendance trends for the People's Law School, Ms. Vondrachek said attendance was down in Bismarck last year, but seems to be increasing in other locations.
Ms. Vondrachek additionally explained that the Law- related Education Conference sponsored by the association is provided to teachers at no cost. She noted that the pamphlet "Graduating into an Adult World" is provided free of charge to schools and is distributed to high school seniors.
Judge Bekken observed that the pamphlet may have more impact if lawyers or judges visit the schools and present the general information to students at the time the pamphlet is distributed. He also noted that the recent Law Day program on "Protecting the Best Interests of Our Children" was well done, but he suggested that in the future judges and juvenile court staff should be involved in similar programs.
In response to a question from Dick Weber, Ms. Vondrachek said the bar association has not developed public educations programs that are directed specifically toward the media.
In response to a question from Dan Hovland, Ms.Vondrachek said the Judge's Forum has proved to be quite popular and the association expects to expand the program to include more cities in 2002.
Judge Bekken noted that there are at least ten judges outside the four largest cities in North Dakota who would be interested in participating in judge forums in more rural areas of the state. He said area lawyers could also be included in these forums.
In response to a question from Dick Weber, Ms. Vondrachek explained that the Bar Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the state bar association, consists of about 325 members and is supported by donations from sustaining, donor, and patron members.
Connie Sprynczynatyk recalled that many of the public trust and confidence recommendations are premised on a general agreement that improvement of public education and understanding of the courts and the legal process is central to addressing trust and confidence issues. She wondered whether there are any partnerships to be explored that would assist in publicizing more generally some of the programs and services that the state bar association provides. Cynthia Mala suggested developing a more extensive media contact list, or perhaps working with a large state agency, such as the Department of Human Services, that has a public information officer.
Chair Neumann thanked Ms. Vondrachek for taking the time to visit with the Committee about the different programs and services provided by the bar association.
Response to Committee Referrals and Recommendations
At the request of Chair Neumann, staff reviewed Attachment C (August 23, 2001) - several letters to Chief Justice VandeWalle and others concerning Committee recommendations and referrals with respect to trust and confidence strategies. With respect to the letter concerning jury service strategies, staff noted Attachment D (August 23, 2001) - a letter from Judge Robert Holte, Chair of the Jury Standards Committee, responding to the Chief Justice's referral of the strategies to that committee for review and identifying additional jury issues that might be studied. Staff said the letter recommending a study of bias issues related to race, ethnicity, and culture resulted in a request for development of a draft proposal regarding how such an initiative could be implemented. With respect to the letter to Bill Strutz, Chair of the Court Services Administration Committee, regarding forms development and forms education, staff said that Committee at its next meeting will review draft pro se assistance forms related to child visitation issues. He said the Committee will also review draft guidelines regarding the scope of assistance provided by clerks of court to self-represented litigants or others seeking information from clerks.
Judge Bekken suggested that forms related to the review of child support obligations would likely be less complicated than those concerning child visitation and may be more useful since child support review is an area in which assistance is more often needed.
With respect to the recommendation concerning a public information officer, Chair Neumann said the Supreme Court is in general agreement that it is important to consider efforts in this area. He said the Chief Justice has requested that the State Court Administrator assemble a description of public information responsibilities to be considered if someone within the judiciary were to assume those duties. He said there has also been some discussion of obtaining public information services on a contract basis.
With respect to bias issues, Committee members agreed it would be helpful to obtain initial information concerning bias and discrimination from the Department of Labor, which recently established a Human Rights Division, and perhaps an entity similar to the Fargo Human Rights Commission. There was also agreement to solicit information from organizations assisting refugees resettling in the state, such as Lutheran Social Services. Cynthia Mala suggested that as a review of bias issues gets underway, it would be useful to contact tribal media outlets, tribal colleges, and the Indian Affairs Commission. She said there is an effort in place to establish a kind of speakers forum to ensure there are individuals within the tribal community who can provide a perspective on issues concerning bias and discrimination.
Department of Public Instruction Resources
At the request of Chair Neumann, staff summarized discussions with Department of Public Instruction personnel regarding ways in which the department might be able to assist in implementing various education-related strategies. He said the general sentiment was that collaborative education efforts would best be pursued at the local level. However, he said, there was also a willingness to assess any particular projects that might be developed. Cynthia Mala suggested it may be more fruitful to contact local social studies teachers' organizations if the judiciary considers development of curriculum segments about the courts.
Strategy Implementation - Involvement of Non-Court Groups and Others
Staff recalled the Committee's earlier discussions concerning the involvement of non-court groups in implementing strategies and how to determine which strategies might be most suitable for non-court group involvement and whether such groups would have the institutional interest or resources to pursue implementation efforts. He noted that there are only a few strategies that are not related to some kind of education initiative which might qualify for possible involvement of a non-court group. Most strategies, he said, are centered around education efforts and contemplate some form of outreach or collaboration between the judiciary and entities outside the judiciary.
Dan Hovland observed that most judges and lawyers would likely be willing to participate in outreach educational efforts, but organization and support is important. He said too many such efforts appear to be done on an ad hoc basis.
Connie Sprynczynatyk suggested using the Supreme Court's Website to assist in publicizing information and programs that are available, such as those supported by the bar association. She said it may be worthwhile to consider reallocating some duties within the judiciary to permit current personnel to coordinate information efforts. Cynthia Mala suggested a retired judge might be a resource for coordinating outreach efforts. Judge Bekken emphasized the importance of having someone in place that is committed to the effort and who can ensure that support material is developed and maintained for use by those involved in information programs.
Committee members agreed that having someone within the judiciary to coordinate public information efforts is critical to achieving the objectives contemplated by various strategies. Cynthia Mala suggested the Supreme Court be informed of the Committee's continued strong concern on this point.
Judge Bekken said the Judicial Conference can also serve as a venue for providing information to judges. He said the North Dakota Judges Association should also be kept informed of the issues under discussion. He suggested the possibility of a program at a future Judicial Conference to provide a fuller presentation about the various strategies and implementation activities.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 1:25 p.m.
Jim Ganje, Staff