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:
Joint Procedure Committee
The Joint Procedure Committee is the standing committee of the Supreme Court responsible for proposing adoption, amendment, or repeal of rules of civil procedure, rules of criminal procedure, rules of appellate procedure, rules of evidence, rules of court, and specialized court procedure. Justice Dale V. Sandstrom chairs the committee. 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.
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. During 2001, the Committee began a study of several issues related to the selection of judges and possible methods of establishing a judicial improvement program.
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 2001, the Committee continued its study of issues related to pro se litigation in the courts.
Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee
The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, chaired by Judge Lee A. Christofferson of Devils Lake, provides advisory services for judges relating to judicial ethics issues. The Committee has provided all judges with an ethics manual and responds to inquiries by judges on ethics questions. The Committee also documents responses for use by all members of the judiciary.
Jury Standards Committee
The Jury Standards Committee, chaired by Judge Robert Holte of Stanley, studies and oversees the operation of North Dakota's jury system.
Judicial Planning Committee
The Judicial Planning Committee is chaired by Justice William A. Neumann. The Committee, recently restructured with new membership, began an evaluation of the judiciary with the objective of making recommendations about how the courts can more effectively provide judicial services in light of many changes affecting the courts. In its initial work in 2001, the Committee focused on elements for mission and vision statements for the judiciary. In 2002, the Committee will continue its study with an assessment of the judiciary's organization.
North Dakota Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission
The Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission, chaired by Judge Debbie Kleven, Grand Forks, identifies and reviews issues concerning the operation of the indigent defense contract system. The Commission continues its review and revision of the Commission's Indigent Defense Procedures and Guidelines. During 2001, the Commission developed and distributed a revised application for appointed counsel services. The Commission also offered its assistance to an interim legislative committee studying possible alternatives to the indigent defense contract system.
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.
Juvenile Policy Board
The Juvenile Policy Board, chaired by Judge Norman Backes of Fargo, 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.
Accountability means holding the offender accountable to their victim and to the community. Accountability to the victim has traditionally meant collecting restitution for the victim. Annually, the juvenile courts collect about $100,000. The ability to collect restitution, enhanced in recent years by the legislature, includes such options as reducing the restitution amount to a judgment when the child turns 18. This keeps the obligation to pay for damages in place for at least ten years. Under Balanced and Restorative Justice, however, the courts attempt to involve the victim more fully.
The courts have contracted with a private provider to hold "juvenile accountability conference". Through these conferences, victims are given the opportunity to face offenders and explain to the offender the true consequences of their actions and to have input on the consequences of their actions. This program has been shown to be very beneficial to victims and to have a serious impact on offenders.
In several communities, the courts, through local funding, have established restitution funds. Under this program, victims are paid damages immediately and the offender pays the restitution back, or completes community service hours equivalent to the damages paid out.
Accountability to the community means repaying the community for harm caused. A principle of restorative justice is that any crime hurts the peace and security of the community and that offenders have an obligation to rectify that harm. In response, all of the courts are involved in community service projects. Statewide, the courts are attempting to establish community service projects which are meaningful to both the community and to the juvenile. For example, the Williston juvenile court established a community garden where offenders plant, weed, and maintain a community garden. The produce is sold with profits going to the local victim restitution fund. The Valley City juvenile court undertook a project to have offenders plant trees and shrubs in the local parks. Much of the value of these programs involves the mentoring relationship of the supervisor.
The Balanced and Restorative Justice model also emphasizes the importance of building on the competency of the offender. That is, most, if not all, offenders need to improve in such skills as decision making and anger management.
The courts have emphasized a program known as "Keys to Innervisions". This program emphasizes that the juvenile accept responsibility for their behavior, understand that they have the power to change their behavior, and provide skills towards changing their behavior.
Community safety also involves controlling the whereabouts of certain offenders while they are in the community. This may mean electronic monitoring, drug and alcohol screening, and face-to-face intensive tracking. At times, it involves removal from the community to a correctional and residential setting.
The North Dakota Supreme Court, through the Juvenile Policy Board, established a Juvenile Drug Court Program. Two pilot courts were established, one in the Northeast judicial district and one in the East Central judicial district. They have been operational since May 1, 2000. Since that time there have been 56 participants and 20 successful graduations.
This is a post petition/post adjudication program with the option of dismissing the petition after the participant successfully completes the program. The program is aimed at intervening in alcohol and/or drug abuse and criminal behavior through intense supervision and participation in recovery services. Each court has a team which consists of a judge, prosecutor, public defender, treatment provider, juvenile court personnel, school representative, and a coordinator. This program is a 9 to 12 month agreement between the juvenile, parents, and drug court. This agreement means that the parents and child will appear weekly, if ordered, in front of the judge. At that time, the judge reviews the progress or lack of progress of the youth. The participants of this program are held accountable for school attendance and grades, employment, drug or alcohol usage, and community and family involvement.
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 the chief justice, state and municipal court judges, a representative from the law school, juvenile court and court support staff for the courts of record. 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 2001, the Commission began implementation of the strategic plan for judicial education. In part, this plan identifies specific long and short-term training needs for all judges and employees of the North Dakota judiciary. The plan will allow the Commission to focus on providing quality education that meets the direct needs of the judiciary and its employees. The plan will be revisited once each biennium to ensure it remains current with the educational needs of the judiciary.
Committee on Tribal and State Court Affairs
The Committee on Tribal and State Court Affairs was established following adoption of Administrative Rule 37 by the Supreme Court. The Committee was chaired, until his untimely passing, by former Chief Justice Ralph J. Erickstad. District Judge Donovan Foughty has been appointed to succeed Justice Erickstad as chair. The Committee 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.
Joint Committee on Attorney Standards
The Joint Committee on Attorney Standards was established following adoption of Administrative Rule 38 by the Supreme Court. The Committee, chaired by Alice Senechal, Grand Forks, is comprised of members appointed by the Chief Justice and the Board of Governors of the State Bar Association. During 2001, the Committee received reports concerning the review of multi-disciplinary practice issues by the American Bar Association, submitted amendments to Rule 3.1D of the Rules for Lawyer Discipline regarding service of a complainant's reply, and began a study of lawyer diversion and lawyer assistance programs.
Gender Fairness Implementation Committee
The Gender Fairness Implementation Committee, chaired by Justice Mary Muehlen Maring, was established by Supreme Court Administrative Order 7 to oversee implementation of the recommendations of the Supreme Court's Commission on Gender Fairness in the Courts. It is further charged with monitoring the progress of the judicial branch in eliminating gender bias in the courts. During 2001, the Committee began review of law firm self-audit programs related to gender issues and studied a successful program instituted in Minnesota. The Committee also discussed pursuing grant funding to develop a desk book for judges which addresses a variety of issues in the area of domestic violence.
Court Technology Committee
The Court Technology Committee, chaired by Judge Allan Schmalenberger, is comprised of people representing the supreme court, district courts, clerks of court and state court administrator's office. The Committee is responsible for general oversight and direction of technology within the judicial branch.
In 2001, the unified court information systems (UCIS) continued to evolve and grow. Examples of this evolution and growth include:
The Committee approved involvement with the state's criminal justice information system. The criminal justice information system is a joint venture of executive branch agencies, the judicial branch, and other government entities. The goal of this project is to facilitate information sharing throughout the criminal justice community by developing methods for information systems to share and transfer data between those systems. It will also establish a single location from which criminal justice information can be retrieved.
The Court Technology Committee approved extending the use of interactive television to include its use for mental health proceedings in the Southeast judicial district. Other districts are currently considering appropriate applications of the use of interactive television.
Public Trust and Confidence Implementation Committee
The Public Trust and Confidence Implementation Committee, chaired by Justice William A. Neumann, was established by Supreme Court Administrative Order 12 to oversee implementation of recommendations set out in the Final Report of the Committee on Public Trust and Confidence. The Final Report identified numerous strategies for addressing a broad range of issues and perceptions affecting public trust and confidence in North Dakota's courts. In 2001, the Implementation Committee continued its assessment of the various recommended strategies and how implementation of the strategies could best be achieved. The Implementation Committee forwarded several strategies and recommendations to other advisory committees for review and submitted recommendations to the Supreme Court regarding public information programs and judicial performance evaluation.
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 a supreme court justice and district court judges, supreme court department heads, and employees of the supreme and district courts. The board is tasked with the responsibility of reviewing and implementing the personnel system and developing a salary administration plan for the judiciary. In 2001 the board's primary focus centered around a review of the current pay and classification system. The review will continue through June of 2002.
Trial Court Legal Research Assistance Committee
The Trial Court Legal Research Assistance Committee, chaired by Judge David Nelson, was established under Policy 508 in 1999. The committee provides technical assistance and management assistance to trial courts in the state. During 2001, the committee completed its evaluation of computer-assisted legal research (CALR) providers and recommended the Court put the CALR contract up for bids. Subsequently, a new CALR service provider was chosen, at a cost savings of about 50%.
Committee on Caseflow Management
The Committee on Caseflow Management, chaired by Judge Allan Schmalenberger, Dickinson, has been established to review district case management plans and practices; to ensure early court intervention and continuous court control over case progress; develop strategies for differentiated case management; creation of realistic and credible trial dates; and the development of strategies to ensure oversight of all court related case events. The Committee of 16 is made up of judges from each judicial district, two bar representatives; court administrative personnel, public defenders, and state's attorneys representatives.
The Committee meets at the call of the chair, but usually quarterly.
Trial Court Operations Committee
A newly created trial court operations committee, chaired by Judge David Nelson, Williston, is to develop and maintain a current clerk of court procedures manual; review the operations of various clerk of court operations for consistent application of statutes, rules, and policies; develop and maintain forms for use statewide; and review matters assigned by the Council of Presiding Judges.
This seven member committee, appointed by the chief justice, includes two district judges, two trial court administrative representatives, and three clerks of district court.