Report of the South Central Judicial District
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 2002 could be best categorized as a year of change. Most notably, the South Central Judicial District added a Juvenile Drug Court in October which is presided over by Judge Bruce Romanick. Another milestone, the district completed its second year of the Adult Drug Court. This, the first adult drug court in North Dakota, is being overseen 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 Courts came into being with cooperation with many agencies including the Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Division, local States Attorneys, and defense counsel, as well as many treatment and addiction facilities in the area.
The district also said goodbye to James Purdy who retired at the end of 2002. Jim was a Judicial Referee in the district for over 15 years and heard primarily juvenile and child support cases.
The South Central Judicial District continues to use the interactive video system which links courtrooms in Burleigh, Mercer, and McLean County together. The ITV system is also capable of transmitting outside parties into courtrooms interactively. The judges use the system primarily for bond hearings, misdemeanor sentencings, and for miscellaneous hearings and meetings.
The district's case flow 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. Two subcommittees, which looked onto the processing of child support cases and juveniles court cases, were busy in 2002. Both committees, chaired by Judge Robert Wefald, streamlined operations and promoted the use of multi-part forms to help expedite the court process.
Juvenile Division and Judicial Referee Activities
In 2002, 2,125 referrals were made to the juvenile court and 932 of the referrals, primarily first time offenders, minor violations, or children of a very young age , were diverted to the Bismarck-Mandan Police Youth Bureau for disposition.
Children retained in the juvenile court and handled either informally or formally through the petition process numbered 1,193. There were 386 formal matters heard in juvenile court in 2002 which include detention/shelter care hearings on temporary custody orders issued by the court service officers. A total of 280 children were placed on probation through the informal or formal process.
Referees conducted 523 formal juvenile hearings and issued 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 675 orders to show cause hearings for non-payment of child support, 24 involuntary termination cases and 33 review/modifications of child support. Full time referee Freed heard 105 small claim cases and 19 civil traffic hearings in 2002.
The Alternative Choice Training Program (ACT) completed its twelfth year of providing alternative sentencing programs for the Court and community. In 2002, 407 people completed one of the twelve minor in possession classes, while 28 people finished one of the adult six misdemeanor classes held in 2002. The domestic violence class had 23 participants who completed this 24-hour class. The Court added a free check writing class in 2001 for those who need help managing their bills and money and 46 people took advantage of the four sessions held in 2002.
Bismarck State College and the Adult Abused Resource Center continue to manage the classes and are responsible for the success of these alternative sentencing programs.