WHEREAS, equal access to the judicial process and impartial resolution of disputes in accordance with governing law are critical components of securing and maintaining public trust and confidence in North Dakota's judicial system;

WHEREAS, North Dakota's judicial system must ensure that the rule of law is applied fairly and equally to all who seek redress in the courts and must ensure that the system and its procedures and processes are administered to ensure equality of treatment, free of any racial or ethnic bias, for all persons; and

WHEREAS, bias based on race or ethnicity strikes at the heart of a judicial system that promises fairness and impartiality.

THEREFORE, the North Dakota Commission to Study Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts is hereby established. The Commission consists of members appointed by the Chief Justice, with the concurrence of the other Justices of the Supreme Court. The Commission has the following responsibilities:

1. Identify areas in the judicial system in which there is a perception of unfairness based on race, ethnicity, or minority status;

2. If perceptions of unfairness are discovered, consider whether processes, procedures, or attitudes within the judicial system contribute to the creation and perpetuation of such perceptions;

3. Review judicial system processes, procedures, rules, and policies to determine whether their operation or application may contribute to an actual or perceived bias based on race, ethnicity, or minority status;

4. Gather and review information concerning the courtroom treatment of litigants, witnesses, and attorneys to determine whether there is disparate treatment based on race, ethnicity, or minority status;

5. To the extent possible, review various case types to determine whether race, ethnicity, or minority status was a factor in the disposition of cases;

6. Review hiring and general employment practices to determine whether the judicial system is viewed as a welcoming environment for minority applicants; and

7. Through public meetings, surveys, focus group discussions, and any other data collection efforts identified by the Commission, gather and analyze information related to the identified responsibilities.

Based on information gathered and assessed by the Commission, the Commission shall submit a report identifying any issues discovered regarding the fairness of the judicial system with respect to race, ethnicity, or minority status.

Based on its findings, the Commission shall make recommendations to the Chief Justice and Supreme Court regarding actions to be taken to ensure the North Dakota judicial system fulfills its institutional responsibility to provide the fair, equitable, and impartial resolution of disputes without regard to race, ethnicity, or minority status.

October 30, 2009 /s/ Gerald W. VandeWalle
Date Gerald W. VandeWalle, Chief Justice