N.D. Supreme Court

North Dakota Courts Annual Report 2005


North Dakota Supreme Court



Left to right: (Sitting) Justice Dale V. Sandstrom; Chief Justice GeraldW. VandeWalle; Justice Mary Muehlen Maring; (Standing) Justice Carol Ronning Kapsner; Justice Daniel J. Crothers

The North Dakota Supreme Court has five Justices. Each Justice is elected for a ten-year term in a nonpartisan election. The terms of the Justices are staggered so that only one judgeship is scheduled for election every two years. Each Justice must be a licensed attorney and a citizen of the United States and North Dakota.

One member of the Supreme Court is selected as Chief Justice by the Justices of the Supreme Court and the District Court Judges. The Chief Justice's term is for five years or until the Justice's elected term on the court expires. The Chief Justice's duties include presiding over Supreme Court and conferences, representing the judiciary at official state functions, and serving as the administrative head of the judicial system.

The North Dakota Supreme Court is the highest court for the State of North Dakota. It has two major types of responsibilities: (1) adjudicative and (2) administrative.

In its adjudicative capacity, the Supreme Court is primarily an appellate court with jurisdiction to hear appeals from decisions of the district courts. All appeals from these courts must be ripe for review by the Court. In addition, the Court also has original jurisdiction authority and can issue such original and remedial writs as are necessary to exercise this authority.

The state constitution requires that a majority of the Justices is necessary before the Court can conduct its adjudicative business. In addition, the Court cannot declare a legislative enactment unconstitutional unless four of the Justices so decide. When the Court reverses, modifies, or affirms a trial court judgment or order, it is required to issue a written opinion stating the reasons for its decision. Any Justice disagreeing with the majority opinion may issue a dissenting opinion which explains the reasons for the disagreement with the majority.

In its administrative capacity, the Supreme Court has major responsibilities for ensuring the efficient and effective operation of all non-federal courts in the state, maintaining high standards of judicial conduct, supervising the legal profession, and promulgating procedural rules which allow for the orderly and efficient transaction of judicial business. Within each area of administrative responsibility the Court has general rule-making authority.

The Court carries out its administrative responsibilities with the assistance of various committees and boards. It exercises its authority to admit and license attorneys through the State Board of Law Examiners. Its supervision of legal ethics is exercised through the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court and its supervision of judicial conduct is exercised through the Judicial Conduct Commission. Continuing review and study of specific subject areas within its administrative jurisdiction is provided through five advisory committees- the Joint Procedure Committee, the Joint Committee on Attorney Standards, the Judiciary Standards Committee, the Court Services Administration Committee, and the Judicial Planning Committee. Other committees, such as the Juvenile Policy Board, Personnel Policy Board and Continuing Judicial Education Commission also provide valuable assistance to the Supreme Court in important administrative areas.

Administrative personnel of the Supreme Court also play a vital role in helping the court fulfill its administrative functions. The clerk of the Supreme Court supervises the calendaring and assignment of cases, oversees the distribution and publication of Supreme Court opinions, administrative rules and orders, decides certain procedural motions filed with the Court, and serves as an ex-officio member to the State Board of Law Examiners and the Disciplinary Board. The state court administrator is responsible for the budgetary oversight of the judicial system, prepares statistical reports on the workload of the state's courts, provides judicial educational services, and performs such other administrative duties that are assigned by the Supreme Court. The state law librarian supervises the operation of the state law library.

North Dakota Supreme Court


Increased filings and change impacted the North Dakota Supreme Court’s workload in 2005. In March, Justice William Neumann resigned from the Court. In April, Justice Daniel Crothers was appointed to the Court by Governor John Hoeven. Justice Crothers assumed his place on the Court in July and will serve two years before he will run for election

Even though appeals of drug-related offenses decreased last year, the prior trend of increasing numbers of drug-related appeals continues. In 2005, appeals of drug-related offenses increased 160% and comprised in 37% of the new criminal filings caseload. While appeals of post-conviction relief proceedings are civil in nature, and are reflected in civil filings, many of them involve underlying drug offenses. Appeals arising from these matters increased 176%. In the criminal area, there were also significant increases in appeals of driving under the influence, sexual crimes, theft and other felony convictions.

Appeals in family related cases accounted for 27% of the civil caseload in 2005, which is a slightly higher percentage than last year. The number of administrative agency appeals decreased, comprising 8% of the civil caseload. Appeals in corporations, debtor/creditor, attorney discipline, mental health, real property and tort proceedings also increased more than other civil case filings.

The Justices each authored an average of 44 majority opinions, with 33 separate concurrences and/or dissents. Oral arguments were scheduled in 229 cases, with approximately 18% of those arguments being waived by the court or submitted on the briefs by the parties.

The most appeals originated from the South Central Judicial District, followed by the East Central, Southeast, Northeast Central, Northeast, Northwest, and Southwest Districts.

In addition to preparing for and attending oral arguments, and researching and writing decisions, the Justices attend weekly motions conferences to consider case related motions the Chief Justice or the Clerk of the Supreme Court do not act on. There were 773 motions filed in 2005, the Clerk acted on 46% of those under the authority of North Dakota Supreme Court Administrative Rule 5 and the Chief Justice.

The Court continued hearing cases “on the road” in Beulah and Garrison, and at the University of North Dakota School of Law, and looks forward to meeting more students in 2006.
 
CASELOAD SYNOPSIS OF THE SUPREME COURT
FOR THE 2004 AND 2005 CALENDAR YEARS

2004

2005

Percent
Difference

New Filings
Civil
Criminal

357
251
106
449
286
163
25.77
13.94
53.77

Transferred to Court of Appeals
Civil
Criminal


0
0
0

11
7
4

1100.00
700.00
400.00

Filings Carried Over From Previous Calendar Year


199

183

-8.04

Total Cases Docketed

55662111.69

Dispositions
Civil
Criminal

373
238
135
370
251
119
-8.04
5.46
-11.56

Cases Pending as of December 31


183

251

37.16

Case Dispositions - 2005

Civil

Criminal

BY OPINION:
Affirmed; Affirmed & Modified
Reversed; Reversed & Remanded; Reversed in Part & Remanded
Affirmed in Part & Reversed in Part; Affirmed in Part & Vacated in Part & Dismissed in Part
Affirmed by Summary Disposition
Dismissed
Discipline Imposed
Original Jurisdiction--Denied
Original Jurisdiction--Granted
Certified Question Answered


73

41


22
28
4
18
1
0
1

23

15


1
27
0
-
0
0
0

Dispositions by Opinion

18866

BY ORDER:
Dismissed
Dismissed After Conference
Original Jurisdiction--Denied
Original Jurisdiction--Granted
No Court Action Necessary


24
31
6
1
1

25
20
8
0
0

Dispositions by Order

63

53

Total Dispositions for 2005

251119

Caseload Overview of North Dakota Courts
for 2004 and 2005


Level of Court
Filings
2004    2005
Dispositions
2004   2005

Supreme Court


357

449

373

370

District Courts


157,318

15,173

183,074

174,786


North Dakota Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals was established in 1987 to assist the Supreme Court in managing its workload. In calendar year 2005, five 2004 cases were transferred to the Court of Appeals together with six 2005 cases.

Judges serving on the Court of Appeals were: the Honorable Norman J. Backes, the Honorable Bruce E. Bohlman, the Honorable Benny A. Graff, the Honorable William F. Hodny, and the Honorable Everett Nels Olson, Surrogate Judges.

Since it was established, the Court of Appeals has disposed of 86 appeals by opinions.

Cases assigned to the Court of Appeals under Administrative Rule 27 may include family law issues, appeals from administrative agency decisions, appeals from trial court orders on motions for summary judgment, appeals involving cases originating under the Uniform Juvenile Court Act, and appeals from misdemeanor convictions.

Authorization for the Court of Appeals extends to January 1, 2008.