The Supreme Court has approved new Administrative Rule 60, which creates "an interdisciplinary committee on specialized dockets." The new rule takes effect Jan. 1, 2019.
A specialized docket is "a juvenile or district court that oversees a therapeutic program comprised of interdisciplinary teams, enhanced judicial involvement, court-supervised treatment programs, and other components designed to achieve effective alternatives to traditional case dispositions." Such programs are often call problem-solving or treatment courts.
The state has had problem-solving courts for more than a decade. There are adult drug courts in Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot and juvenile drug courts in these cities plus Devils Lake, Jamestown and Valley City. There is also a domestic violence court in Grand Forks that has been operating since 2016 and a DUI court in Wahpeton.
According to a study by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, drug courts are the most common type of problem-solving court in the United States, with more than 1,000 active in the country. Other types of these courts include Mental Health, Domestic Violence, and Veterans courts. Minnesota calls these courts "treatment courts" and is trying out most of the types, including a family dependency treatment court: "a juvenile or family court docket of which selected abuse, neglect, and dependency cases are identified where parental substance abuse is a primary factor."
The purpose of the committee established by Rule 60 is to "acquire and analyze relevant information related to the need for and feasibility of establishing specialized dockets." The committee's members will consist of a Supreme Court justice, two district judges, and, if agreed to by their departments, a representative of the department of human services and of the department of corrections. The state court administrator or designee will also be a member. The rule allows the committee chair to appoint temporary members to help review particular specialized docket proposals.
The committee's primary work will be to consider requests for the establishment of specialized dockets. The committee is required to promptly review information supporting each specialized docket request and to analyze it to determine the need for a proposed court. It will then submit its conclusions to the Supreme Court.
Rule 60 requires the committee to address specific factors as it carries out its reviews, including: the funding required for a proposed court and the funding source; whether proposed services are needed in a particular geographic area; availability of adequate judicial resources to support a particular court; availability of potential specialized docket team members; population of eligible participants in the locality of a proposed court; and the availability of treatment resources in a proposed court's area of operation.
The rule allows the Supreme Court to withdraw approval or suspend operation of a specialized docket if adequate funding, judicial resources, or support services are not available or if the specialized docket is not effectively addressing the needs for which it was created.
In addition to approving the new specialized dockets committee rule, the Supreme Court has also amended Administrative Rule 13 on judicial referees effective Jan. 1, 2019. The Court expanded the scope of duties delegable to a judicial referee to include presiding in proceedings under N.D.C.C. ch. 30.1-29, which covers the protection of the property of disabled persons and minors. North Dakota currently has judicial referees in the East Central, North Central and South Central Judicial Districts.
October 12, 2018