Report of the Northeast Central Judicial District
The Honorable Debbie Kleven, Presiding Judge
District Court Judges: Debbie Kleven, Presiding Judge; Bruce E. Bohlman; Karen Braaten; Lawrence E. Jahnke; and Joel D. Medd
Judicial Referees: Harlan Dyrud and David Vigeland. Number of Counties in District: 2 District Court Chambers: Grand Forks
|Case Filings/Dispositions||2001 (F) (D)||2002 (F) (D)|
In 2002, the Northeast Central Judicial District continued its case assignment practice of assigning two judges to the criminal division and three judges to the civil division. Judges Braaten and Medd handled the criminal caseload whiles Judges Bohlman, Jahnke, and Kleven handled all civil cases. Referees Dyrud and Vigeland continued to hear juvenile matters, small claims cases, and child support enforcement actions.
A STOP grant was obtained to fund a family court pilot project. The grant will extend for one year and hopefully beyond as we develop the concept. The family court has three basic goals: (1) to bundle cases together that affect members of the same family and assign them to one judge, thereby avoiding conflicting orders and promoting efficient and effective resolution of family law matters; (2) to develop a community team of helping agencies to provide focused and coordinated delivery of services to the family; and (3) to utilize mediation and other non-adversarial dispute resolution techniques whenever possible. Amy Bohn is the family court coordinator and she would be happy to answer any questions concerning the project.
Another pilot project was implemented in the clerk of court's office involving bail bonds. Before a cash bond is returned to the remitter, a clerk verifies whether the remitter owes any child support. If there is an outstanding child support obligation, the matter is brought to the attention of the judge who decides whether the cash bond should be applied to the child support obligation rather than being returned to the remitter. The project will be reviewed after one year to determine whether it should be implemented statewide.
The number of criminal case dispositions has increased significantly over the last year. Like the rest of the state of North Dakota, the Northeast Central Judicial District has seen an increase in criminal cases involving defendants who use methamphetamine. Because of the effect methamphetamine has on its users, these cases tend to be more difficult to handle for not only the courts but also the prosecutors, defense attorneys, and probation officers. Further, these cases usually result in additional court time as probationers are returned to court on petitions to revoke probation.
The Grand Forks County Commission has approved a remodeling project for the courthouse. It is anticipated the project will start in the spring of 2003. The plans include locating the administrative offices and both the criminal and civil clerk's offices on 1st floor. The second floor will include two courtrooms and the State's Attorney's Office. There will be four courtrooms located on the 4th floor, including a new courtroom that will be much larger than any of the current courtrooms. We look forward to having a courtroom large enough to accommodate more than three attorneys. In the past, we have relied upon the law school and the federal courthouse when a large courtroom was needed.
The year 2002 found the juvenile court in our district attempting to maintain programming developed in previous years. Because of lack of funding the Keys program, community service, and DIVERT programs are on unstable ground. These programs have been available because of funding through the Children Services Coordinating Committee. The generation of these funds is made by random moment time studies, which have been reduced or eliminated. Unless refinance dollars increase, tough decisions will have to be made regarding which of these programs will survive.
Drug court, which is still running smoothly, is facing similar problems, but there is an attempt to get funding from the legislature for this program. Judge Braaten has been handling juvenile drug court since October 2002.
Drug testing continues to be a strong part of probation and this should continue. Accountability conferencing, day report, and day treatment are other programs within the district that look healthy financially. These programs are funded through OJJDP and come to the state in other ways. The continuation of these programs will help a great deal.
On the bright side our probation caseload has dropped for the first time in 20 years. This may be partly demographics. We believe some of the excellent programming mentioned above has affected our reduced caseload.
Formal court seems busier than ever. After two years into the ASFA requirements, we find more formal court time is necessary to meet the mandates of ASFA. Further requirements pushing terminations of parental rights also have impacted the district. That being said, it is likely a very positive addition to the rights and needs of children.
2003 should be an interesting year. We will all have to put our collective heads together and work on solutions to maintain current program levels should financial resources not be available.