With the agreement of indigent defense counsel, the Northeast Central Judicial District implemented a new procedure for indigent case assignments. In the past, indigent counsel were assigned every fourth case. Under the new procedure, each firm under contract to provide indigent defense services covers criminal court on a weekly basis and are assigned all new cases filed in their week. This procedure appears to save indigent counsel time and also helps the court by improving the accessibility of indigent counsel.
Our court management committee continues to meet on a quarterly basis to address issues concerning case management, case assignments, scheduling and other issues that arise in both Grand Forks and Nelson counties. Due to the dike project in Grand Forks, the clerk of court has seen an influx of eminent domain cases. It is anticipated many of these cases will be scheduled for jury trial within the next year.
With the completion of the county office building, the Grand Forks County Commission is planning a remodeling project for the courthouse. The entire staff looks forward to better utilization of space in the courthouse and is hopeful a larger courtroom will be built.
The juvenile court in 2000 was busy with cases and programs. Drug court was started in May with twenty kids having either completed or currently involved in Drug Court. Although this is a pilot project, the response to the program has been very positive and the drug court team is hopeful funding for the project will continue.
Keys to Innervisions continues to be the primary rehabilitative tool used with our court. We are establishing, for the first time, use of the full curriculum for this program. We are excited about the prospects of involving parents early and offering the program to families.
A new program with emphasis on truancy is being developed. A truancy team made up of members from social services, state's attorney's office, juvenile court, schools and Lutheran Social Services look to be the catalyst as we try to show families the importance of education with this project. Final interventions will be determined by the truancy team. The first referrals to the team begin in March. We will be looking primarily to elementary and middle school referrals.
Other programs include community service, drug/alcohol testing, offender tracking, and a number of public school related committees that foster communication in working with at risk youth.
The new location of the juvenile court personnel in the County Office Building has been both aesthetically pleasing and efficient. The ability to immediately refer clients within the same building and sharing of information has greatly enhanced the working relationships of the organizations involved.