In the North Dakota judicial system, a system of committees has been established to develop new ideas and evaluate proposals for improving public services. These advisory committees include citizen members, legislators, lawyers, and judges. The activities of these advisory committees are summarized here:
Judicial Planning Committee
The Judicial Planning Committee provides planning guidance for the short term (two years) intermediate term (10 years) and the future (20 years). Actions that can improve the judiciary and the service provided are identified, planned and then referred to judicial leaders and other standing committees for resolution.
Joint Procedure Committee
The Joint Procedure Committee is responsible for continued study and improvement of the North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rules of Court, Rules of Evidence, Rules of Appellate Procedure, and specialized court proceeding procedures. The Committee is chaired by Justice Dale V. Sandstrom and staffed by Gerhard Raedeke. The Committee membership of 10 judges and 10 attorneys is appointed by the Supreme Court, except for one liaison member appointed by the State Bar Association. Recent projects include new rules and amendments governing custody investigators, guardians ad litem, predeliberation discussion by jurors, appearances by attorneys not licensed in North Dakota, and ex parte applications by indigent defendants for funding. The Committee has also been working on alternative dispute resolution and is revising the North Dakota Rules of Appellate Procedure in response to the 1998 revision of the federal rules.
Joint Committee on Attorney Standards
The Joint Committee on Attorney Standards, chaired during 1999 by District Judge Ralph Erickson of Fargo, is comprised of members appointed by the Chief Justice and the Board of Governors of the State Bar Association. During 1999, the Committee submitted to the Supreme Court proposed amendments to Rule 8.4, Rules of Professional Conduct, which identified manifestation of bias as a form of misconduct, and undertook a review of issues related to client access to files, lawyer advertising, and multi-disciplinary practice.
Judiciary Standards Committee
The Judiciary Standards Committee, chaired by Brian Neugebauer of West Fargo, studies and reviews all rules relating to the supervision of the judiciary, including judicial discipline, judicial ethics, and the judicial nominating process.
Court Services Administration Committee
The Court Services Administration Committee, chaired by William A. Strutz of Bismarck, is responsible for the study and review of all rules and orders relating to the administrative supervision of the judicial system. During 1999, the Committee reviewed the system's administrative structure and the effectiveness and efficiency of the administrative operation of the trial courts. The Committee also began a study concerning implementation of 1999 legislation providing for state funding of clerk of district court services. As part of that study, the Committee submitted to the Supreme Court a proposed rule on clerk duties and appointment.
Committee on Tribal and State Court Affairs
The Committee on Tribal and State Court Affairs, chaired by former Chief Justice Ralph J. Erickstad, is comprised of tribal and state court judges, tribal and state court support services representatives, and public members. It is intended to provide a vehicle for expanding awareness about the operation of tribal and state court systems; identifying and discussing issues regarding court practices, procedures, and administration which are of common concern to members of the two court systems; and for cultivating mutual respect for and cooperation between tribal and state courts.
Commission on Judicial Education
The Continuing Judicial Education Commission was established following adoption of Administrative Rule 36 by the Supreme Court. The commission is chaired by Judge Donald L. Jorgensen of Bismarck and is comprised of three district court judges, a justice or judge appointed by the chief justice, a supreme court department head, a district court employee, and a supreme court employee. The commission develops policies and procedures concerning the implementation of a statewide continuing judicial education program for judges and personnel of the unified judicial system.
The commission was instrumental in the Supreme Court's decision to mandate that all supreme, district and municipal judges, judicial referees and magistrates, and juvenile court directors and court officers receive an identified number of hours of continuing education each biennium.
In 1999, the Commission authorized the development of, with the assistance of the Juvenile Court Education Committee, a promotional video on the juvenile court and a set of videotapes which will be used to orient new court officers and respective members of the community on juvenile court laws and procedures. The orientation videos have been completed and are being used statewide for training purposes. The completion date for the promotional video is April, 2000.
Personnel Policy Board
The Personnel Policy Board was established following adoption of Administrative Policy 106 by the Supreme Court. The board is chaired by Penny Miller, Clerk of the Supreme Court, and is comprised of three district court judges, a justice or judge appointed by the chief justice, a supreme court department head, a district court employee, and a supreme court employee. The board is tasked with the responsibility of reviewing and implementing the personnel system and developing a salary administration plan for the judiciary. In 1999 the board's primary focus centered around the policy issues related to the transition of county to state funded clerks of district court and their employees.
North Dakota Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission
The Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission, chaired during 1999 by Constance L. Triplett, Grand Forks, identifies and reviews issues concerning the operation of the indigent defense contract system. During 1999, the commission reviewed the prospects for a pilot public defender system, considered issues regarding the equitable allocation of indigent defense funds, and monitored 1999 legislation affecting indigent defense services.
Juvenile Policy Board
The Juvenile Policy Board, chaired by Judge Norman Backes, continues to oversee the implementation of balanced and restorative justice.
Under this system, juvenile courts address public safety, accountability of the offender to the victim and society, and the competency development of juveniles who come in contact with the court. Research indicates that courts that "balance" these approaches with juveniles are most effective in reducing juvenile recidivism.
The board, working with the directors of juvenile courts and the division of juvenile services, has implemented a statewide system for electronic monitoring and intensive tracking of certain juvenile offenders. A system of fully involving victims in the juvenile court process, including offender accountability conferences involving the victim, was initiated in the past year. This approach emphasizes community service, payment of restitution to victims, and taking responsibility for one's behavior.
As part of the competency development portion of this approach, the board continued implementing the "Keys to Innervisions" program. This program is designed to instill responsibility in juveniles for their own actions, that they can change their behavior and to teach them how to change their behavior. In addition to training all juvenile court officers in this approach, the courts have cooperated with schools, tribal governments, social services, law enforcement, and private providers to train other key individuals in this approach; the start of a "community empowerment team". This should help in sending clear and consistent messages to juveniles from the many systems they come in contact with.
Council of Presiding Judges
The Council of Presiding Judges is a policy making body charged with the responsibility to provide uniform and efficient delivery of administrative support to the trial courts. The council consists of the presiding judge of each judicial district and the chief justice of the supreme court as the presiding officer of the council. Duties of the council include the responsibility to develop administrative policies for the trial courts and provide the mechanism to ensure implementation. The Council of Presiding Judges meets at the call of the chair.
Court Technology Committee
The Court Technology Committee, chaired by Judge Allan Schmalenberger, is comprised of 11 people representing the supreme court, district courts, clerks of court, and state court administrator's office.
During 1999, the unified court information systems (UCIS) continued to evolve and grow. The Committee approved the expansion of UCIS to include a total of 30 counties. In March, the Southeast judicial district was migrated from the Barnes County AS/400 and began using UCIS on the judicial AS/400 in Bismarck. This brought the number of districts using a single, integrated UCIS database to five. The Northeast Central judicial district continues to use a UCIS installation that resides on the Grand Forks County AS/400. The East Central judicial district continues to use an alternate system, PCSS. The Committee also approved policies that made it possible for law enforcement and state's attorneys to access selected UCIS data.
The Court Technology Committee also oversaw the purchase and implementation of a statewide juvenile court system and a digital recording system that is being tested in the Southwest judicial district.
A comprehensive integration and migration analysis was performed in 1999. The result of this analysis is a technology plan which will provide general guidelines for the next five to seven years.
The Committee will continue to work towards integrated systems within the judicial branch and with other government entities in the coming years.
Gender Fairness Implementation Committee
The Gender Fairness Implementation Committee, chaired by Justice Mary Muehlen Maring, is charged by Administrative Order 7 with implementing the recommendations of the Final Report of the Commission on Gender Fairness in the Courts. During 1999, the Committee assisted in coordinating several education programs concerning bias in the courts and provided articles concerning Committee activities for publication in the Gavel, a publication of the State Bar Association. The Committee also reviewed methods in other jurisdictions of addressing bias related complaints and began an assessment of an informal complaint procedure for responding to such complaints.
Committee on Public Trust and Confidence
The Committee on Public Trust and Confidence, chaired by Justice William A. Neumann, was established to study numerous factors that have been cited as contributing to a decline in the public's trust and confidence in the courts. During 1999, the Committee, comprised of members representing a broad spectrum of interests and experience, analyzed issues and perceptions affecting public trust and confidence and developed possible methods for addressing those factors that may influence the public's understanding of and support for the courts and the judicial process. The Committee also reviewed results from a survey of North Dakota citizens conducted in October 1999 which sought to gauge public perception of the courts. At the close of the year, the Committee was preparing a report on its findings and recommendations for submission to the Supreme Court.
Trial Court Legal Research Assistance Committee
The Trial Court Legal Research Assistance Committee, chaired by Judge David Nelson, was created in 1999. The purpose of the committee is to provide technical assistance and management assistance to trial courts in the state. The committee is currently formulating minimum library standards for trial courts, has started group purchases of widely held publications, and is creating a resource book for judges.