Advisory Committees of the North Dakota Judicial System
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's membership of 10 judges and 10 attorneys is appointed by the Supreme Court, except for one liaison member appointed by the State Bar Association.
The committee recently completed a full review and revision of the rules of appellate procedure. The committee is now beginning work on updating the rules of criminal procedure. The committee has also been working on rule amendments designed to integrate new technologies into court procedure, including expanded use of interactive video in court hearings and electronic filing of court documents.
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 2002, the Committee completed a study of several issues related to the selection of judges and possible methods of establishing a judicial improvement program and submitted a judicial improvement program proposal to the Supreme Court for consideration.
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 2002, the Committee continued its study of issues related to pro se litigation in the courts. The Committee developed and submitted to the Supreme Court a proposed policy regarding assistance to self-represented litigants and also submitted a set of forms for use by self-represented litigants in selected court proceedings.
Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee
The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, chaired by Judge Ronald Goodman, 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 Joel D. Medd, 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 continued 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 November 2002, the Committee submitted proposed planning recommendations to the Supreme Court.
North Dakota Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission
The Legal Counsel for Indigents Commission, chaired in 2002 by Judge Debbie Kleven, identifies and reviews issues concerning the operation of the indigent defense contract system. During 2002, the Commission offered its assistance to an interim legislative committee studying possible alternatives to the indigent defense contract system and completed its revision of Indigent Defense Procedures and Guidelines.
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, 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 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 2002, 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 and is chaired by District Judge Donovan Foughty. 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 of Grand Forks, is comprised of members appointed by the Chief Justice and the Board of Governors of the State Bar Association. During 2002, the Committee continued a study of lawyer diversion and lawyer assistance programs and began a review of the Rules of Professional Conduct in light of recently adopted ABA Model Rules.
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 2002, the Committee supported an application by the Supreme Court for federal STOP grant funds to prepare a domestic violence benchbook for judges, judicial referees, and selected court personnel. The grant was approved and work on the benchbook began in November, 2002.
Court Technology Committee
The Court Technology Committee, chaired by Judge Allan Schmalenberger, is comprised of representatives from 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 for the Judicial Branch.
In 2002, the Unified Court information Systems (UCIS) demonstrated what is perhaps the largest evolutionary change and growth in its history by becoming the single statewide case management system for the North Dakota Judicial Branch. This was achieved by completing the integration of Cass County in November, 2002. This process involved making several enhancements to UCIS and converting and integrating the data from Cass County's previous system.
In addition, the Court Technology Committee authorized adding the remaining 13 counties to UCIS. These counties are expected to be using UCIS by July, 2003.
Dickinson and Devils Lake Municipal Courts were also added and now use UCIS as the case management system for their courts. This brings the total number of municipalities using UCIS to six.
The data sharing capabilities that exist between the State's Attorney Management System (SAMS) and UCIS have been extended so data may still be shared with the two systems residing on separate computers. We continue to work with State's Attorneys and the Attorney General's office on a replacement for SAMS.
The Court Technology Committee continued with the project to provide full text of protection orders to law enforcement. This is a joint venture between the Judicial Branch, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, State Radio Communications, Victim Advocate Groups, and others. This project is expected to be completed in early 2003.
We began working with the North Dakota Highway Patrol on a project to transfer citation data electronically from the North Dakota Highway Patrol's in-car citation system to UCIS. This is an ongoing project, with an expected implementation date in mid-2003.
Access to district court case information is available to other criminal justice related personnel. Currently, web-based access is provided to nearly 200 non-judicial personnel, and UCIS access is provided to approximately 125 non-judicial personnel.
The Court Technology Committee expanded the use of interactive television (ITV) to the Southeast Judicial District. They will be using ITV for mental health proceedings. Cass County is also working towards using ITV between the Cass County jail and the Cass County Courthouse for persons in custody.
Based on requests from the district judges, a web-based interactive child support calculator was developed.
We continue to work with the state's Criminal Justice Information Sharing (CJIS) initiative. This initiative is a joint, multi-branch of government effort to facilitate sharing of criminal justice information.
The technology department's Help Desk provides technical support to all judicial branch employees and clerk of court personnel.
Personnel Policy Board
The Personnel Policy Board was established following adoption of Administrative Policy 106 by the Supreme Court. The board is chaired by Judge Mikal Simonson and is comprised of a supreme court justice, 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 2002 the board's primary focus centered around a review of the current pay and classification system. The review will continue through June of 2003.
Trial Court Legal Research Assistance Committee
The Trial Court Legal Research Assistance Committee, chaired by Judge David Nelson, was created in 1999. The committee provides technical assistance and management assistance to trial courts in the state. During 2002, the committee began a review of the Lexis service, our present CALR provider, and looked at a West proposal to offer Westlaw to the district court judges, all in preparation for contract negotiations at the end of the biennium.
Committee on Caseflow Management
The Committee on Caseflow Management, chaired by Judge Allan Schmalenberger, 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, 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.