District Court Judges: Benny A. Graff, Presiding Judge; Gail Hagerty; Bruce Haskell; Donald Jorgensen; Burt Riskedahl; Bruce Romanick; Thomas Schneider; and Robert O. Wefald.
Judicial Referees: James Purdy and Robert Freed.
Number of Counties in District: 12
District Court Chambers: Bismarck, Mandan, Linton and Washburn.
The year 2001 welcomed Bruce Romanick to the bench as he won a contested race for the Washburn chamber. Judge Romanick previously worked as an Assistant States Attorney in Burleigh County. This was the first complete year the district had the misdemeanor and felony "date certain" scheduling of criminal cases filed in Burleigh and Morton County. This scheduling system provides each defendant with a trial date within six months of arrest.
Most notably, the South Central judicial district also completed its first full year of Drug Court. This is the first adult drug court in North Dakota and is being presided over by Judge Gail Hagerty and Judge Bruce Haskell. Approximately 20 defendants are going through this intensive program aimed at getting people free from a substance abuse lifestyle. The program only accepts cases from Burleigh and Morton County. The drug court came to being with cooperation with many agencies including the Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Division, local state's attorneys, and defense counsel, as well as many treatment and addiction facilities in the area.
The South Central judicial district had its first full year of use on the interactive video system which links courtrooms in Burleigh, Mercer, and McLean Counties together. It is also capable of allowing parties to appear from remote locations. The judges use the system primarily for bond hearings, misdemeanor sentencings, and for miscellaneous hearings.
The district's Caseflow Management Committee (made up of two judges, a clerk, a calendar control clerk, a court reporter and the district court administrator) continues to meet regularly and look at issues for improving service and makes recommendations to the entire bench. One offshoot from the Caseflow Management Committee was a Child Support Review Committee that looked into the processing of child support cases in the district . Many new procedures were implemented in late 2001 based on the work of this committee that was chaired by Judge Robert Wefald.
Juvenile Division and Judicial Referee Activities:
In 2001, 3,059 referrals were made to the juvenile court. 937 of the referrals were diverted to the Bismarck-Mandan Police Youth Bureau for disposition; primarily first time offenders, minor violations, or children of a very young age.
The juvenile court retained 2,122 children and their cases were handled either informally or formally through the petition process. There were 476 formal matters heard in juvenile court in 2001 which include detention/shelter care hearings on temporary custody orders issued by the court service officers. A total of 559 children were placed on probation through the informal or formal process.
Referees conducted 470 formal juvenile hearings and issued 152 detention and temporary custody orders for children who are placed in temporary alternative environments outside the parental home.
In addition to the formal juvenile proceedings, the judicial referees conducted 513 orders-to-show-cause hearings for non-payment of child support, 55 foster support matters, 27 involuntary termination cases, and 83 review/modifications of child support. Full-time Referee Freed heard 82 small claim cases and 33 civil traffic hearings in 2001.
The Alternative Choice Training Program (ACT) completes its eleventh year of providing alternative sentencing programs for the court and community. In 2001, 373 people completed the minor-in-possession class while 52 people finished the adult misdemeanor class. The domestic violence class had 44 participants who completed this 24 hour class. The court added check writing classes in 2000 and continued this worthwhile program in 2001 to offer a check writing program (free of charge) for those who need help managing their bills and money.
Bismarck State College and the Adult Abuse Resource Center continue to manage the classes and are responsible for the success of these alternative sentencing programs.