TO: Joint Procedure Committee
FROM: Mike Hagburg
DATE: January 5, 2016
RE: Rule 3.5, N.D.R.Ct., Electronic Filing in District Courts
The State Court Administrator is working to eliminate the affixing of stamps or seals from the court document processing routine. At the last meeting, the committee approved amendments to several rules and forms to eliminate requirements for the clerk to affix a seal. These will be sent to the Supreme Court with the annual rules package.
The court administrator now requests an amendment be made to Rule 3.5 to make it clear that the presence of a document within the court system's electronic filing system is by itself enough to establish the document's authenticity and that no further stamping is required. The proposed amendment begins at line 80. The proposed explanatory note text begins at line 114 and explains the intent of the proposed amendment.
The amendment is necessary because, even though the rules will no longer require affixing stamps or seals, some statutes do. The most important of these is the statute on execution of judgments, N.D.C.C. 28-21-06. This statute provides: "An execution must be issued in the name of the state of North Dakota, attested in the name of the judge of the court that entered the judgment, sealed with the seal of the court, subscribed by the clerk of that court, and directed and delivered to a sheriff." In Williams County in particular the sheriff's office has been refusing to serve executions on judgments that do not comply with all the technical requirements of the statute.
The Supreme Court may supersede procedural statues and the "seal of the court" requirement in 28-21-06 is arguably procedural. The committee may wish to discuss whether the language proposed by the court administrator is adequate to counter the statute and to address situations like the Williams County situation described above. If the committee approves rule language designed to supersede statutory "seal of the court" requirements, a thorough search of the code by staff will need to follow to identify other statutes subject to superseding.