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In re Chambering of New Judgeship No. 11 In Northwest Judicial District

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 4, 2013

In the Matter of the Chambering of New Judgeship No. 11 in the Northwest Judicial District

PER CURIAM.

[¶ 1] The 63rd Legislative Assembly passed Senate Bill 2002, which was signed by the Governor, and will become effective July 1, 2013. This legislation provides for two additional district court judges in the Northwest Judicial District. The legislation also provides for the chambers to be assigned by the Supreme Court. One of these judgeships has been chambered in Williston, North Dakota. See Chambering New Judgeship No. 10 in the Northwest Judicial District, 2013 ND 82.

[¶ 2] N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 7.1 provides the procedure for establishing judgeship chambers within the judicial districts of North Dakota. Notice of an opportunity to provide written comment on the chambering of the new judgeship was posted May 1, 2013, on the Supreme Court website. Notice was also given to the boards of county commissioners for Burke, Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail, Ward and Williams counties through their respective county auditors, and Notice was also sent to be published once in the official newspaper for each of the affected counties. Written comments on chambering were permitted through May 31, 2013.

[¶ 3] A Report containing population and caseload trends, and other criteria identified in Section 4, N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 7.1, was filed May 17, 2013, by Carolyn Probst, Trial Court Administrator for the Northwest Judicial District. The Honorable William W. McLees, Presiding Judge of the Northwest Judicial District, also signed the Report. The McKenzie County Commission filed a petition in support of chambering the new judgeship in Watford City, which was supported by the Mayor of Watford City.

[¶ 4] Section 4, N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 7.1, provides the criteria for consideration in designating resident district court judgeship chambers. Discussion of the factors follows.

a. Annual district court combined civil, criminal and formal juvenile caseload for the most recent three-year period and any discernible caseload trends or patterns.

[¶ 5] All counties in the Northwest Judicial District have been impacted by the oil and gas activity in the western half of the state. This activity has dramatically impacted essential service providers, including the court system. Case filings are significantly increasing throughout the district.

County

2010 Filings

2011 Filings

2012 Filings

Burke

1, 216

1, 597

2, 079

Divide

856

1, 229

1, 612

McKenzie

3, 911

5, 333

9, 179

Mountrail

4, 176

4, 903

5, 637

Ward

13, 663

11, 944

13, 179

Williams

6, 971

8, 519

10, 635

District Total

30, 793

33, 525

42, 321

Certain case types, in particular probate and trust, felony, misdemeanor and traffic, are steadily increasing in the district.

Case Type

2010

2011

2012

Divorce

551

506

507

Child Support

734

477

565

Domestic-Other

553

572

681

Small Claims

606

503

493

Probate and Trust

1531

1686

2079

Mental Health

292

326

339

Administrative Appeal

46

65

74

Other Civil

2702

2671

2628

Juvenile

391

352

345

Felony

677

916

1271

Misdemeanor

4640

6255

7237

Infraction

264

219

245

Traffic

17806

18977

25857

District Total

30, 793

33, 525

42, 321

[¶ 6] The Northwest Judicial District currently has seven District Judges and one Judicial Referee handling the expanding workload. In November 2012, a Surrogate Judge began sitting on assignment in Watford City, for one full week each month to handle all master calendar matters. According to the Report, the five judges chambered in Minot are primarily responsible for the criminal and civil caseloads for Burke, Mountrail and Ward counties, and the two judges chambered in Williston, with assistance from a Surrogate Judge, primarily handle the criminal and civil caseloads in Divide, McKenzie and Williams counties. Prior to the assignment of the Surrogate Judge to McKenzie County, a Minot judge traveled to that county one day a month to conduct preliminary hearings and pretrial conferences.

[¶ 7] Watford City in McKenzie County, Stanley in Mountrail County, and Williston in Williams County, are discussed in the Report as possible locations for chambering new Judgeship No. 11. While case filings in Burke, Divide and Ward counties are also increasing, the Report indicates the judicial needs of these counties are being satisfactorily met by the judges chambered in Minot and Williston. The caseload trends and the continued interest in the oil and gas reserves in the Bakken and Three Forks Formations support the chambering of this judgeship in either Stanley, Watford City or Williston.

[¶ 8] In the past three years, the two District Judges chambered in Williston, assisted by a Surrogate Judge, have been primarily responsible for an average of 45% of the caseload in the Northwest Judicial District. This caseload is currently increasing with no indication of a reprieve. New Judgeship No. 10 was recently chambered in Williston. See Chambering New Judgeship No. 10 in the Northwest Judicial District, 2013 ND 82. According to the Report, if new Judgeship No. 11 is chambered in Watford City or Williston, four District Judges will be available to handle the caseload in Divide, McKenzie and Williams counties. If the judgeship is chambered in Stanley, the same four judges will be responsible for the caseload in Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail and Williams counties, which averaged 59% of the judicial district's caseload for 2010, 2011 and 2012.

[ΒΆ 9] The Judicial Officer Weighted Caseload Study based on 2010, 2011 and 2012 filings, compiled by the State Court Administrator's staff was also received in this matter. This weighted caseload study allocates judicial resources (including judges and judicial referees) needed to handle cases after weighting each type of case by the time required to process an average case of that type. The study also allocates time not available for handling cases but which is required from a judge, such as for travel and for the presiding judge to handle administrative matters. The resulting computation expresses the minimum judicial resources as the judicial Full Time Equivalent ("judicial FTE") required to meet the needs of the district based upon weighted case filings. Ideally a judicial district as a whole would show a small positive number, indicating judicial resources for that district ...


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