Despite great demand on the system, courts have remained open and functioning during the oil boom in western North Dakota, and the 2013 legislature provided new resources, including additional judges.
Some have apparently misinterpreted a paragraph in a Minot Daily News story ("A judicious approach to dramatic increase") to indicate that courts in Williams County (Williston) and the Supreme Court have been shutting down on Friday afternoons. The Supreme Court has not changed its 8-5, Monday-Friday schedule, and courts in Williston have continued to hold hearings on Friday afternoons as well as the rest of the week.
Counter service has been affected in offices in the Williams County Courthouse on Friday afternoons while employees remain at their desks processing documents.
State Court Administrator Sally Holewa explains, "The Williams County Board of Commissioners authorized all county offices to begin closing their doors at noon on Fridays effective August 1, 2011. That authorization is still in effect and county offices are still closing their doors at noon on Fridays."
"The Clerk of Court office began closing its doors at noon on Fridays, effective March 16, 2012," Holewa said. "We had added a temporary position in Williams County, and the office was getting help from the other five counties in the Northwest Judicial District as well as help from Cass, Grand Forks, Ramsey and Walsh counties."
"The legislature authorized two new deputy clerk positions for this office, effective July 1," Holewa said. "The office is still closing its doors at noon on Fridays but the court administrator has been directed to re-assess the need for that after November 1. We have continued to authorize overtime until that date in order to give the two new employees time to get trained."
"The court schedule was not changed. The court continues to schedule hearings on Friday afternoons. The clerks assist with the hearings and related documents as needed," Holewa said.
Lawyers and others have been able to electronically file court documents statewide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since 2011, and electronic filing of most documents has been required since earlier this year. From their own offices, lawyers are able to electronically access court documents. North Dakota is the first state in the nation to have all its trial courts on an electronic record. Electronic filing and document access is helping the courts keep up with the greatly expanding workload.
July 24, 2013