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In re Vacancy in Judgeship No. 6, with Chambers in Grafton

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 24, 2017

In the Matter of the Vacancy in Judgeship No. 6, with Chambers in Grafton, North Dakota, Northeast Judicial District

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶ 1] On April 25, 2017, Governor Doug Burgum notified the Supreme Court of the retirement of the Honorable M. Richard Geiger, Judge of the District Court, with chambers in Grafton, Northeast Judicial District, effective October 1, 2017. Judge Geiger's retirement creates a vacancy under Section 27-05-02.1, N.D.C.C.

         [¶ 2] Under Section 27-05-02.1, N.D.C.C., this Court is required to review judicial vacancies that occur and determine, within 90 days of receiving notice of a vacancy, whether the office is necessary for effective judicial administration. This Court may, consistent with that determination, order a vacancy filled or order the vacant office transferred to another judicial district in which an additional judge is necessary, or abolish a vacant judicial office, with or without a transfer.

         [¶ 3] Under N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 7.2, notice of a written consultation with attorneys and judges and other interested persons in the Northeast Judicial District was posted May 23, 2017, on the website of the Supreme Court regarding the vacancy created by Judge Geiger's retirement in Judgeship No. 6. Notice was also electronically provided to all presiding judges of the state. Written comments on the vacancy were permitted through June 19, 2017. This procedure is sufficient for purposes of the consultation required under Section 27-05-02.1, N.D.C.C.

         [¶ 4] Comments supporting filling the vacancy in the current location were received, and a Report containing population and caseload trends, and other criteria identified in N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 7.2, Section 4, was filed June 8, 2017, by the Northeast Judicial District. The State Court Administrator provided statewide weighted caseload statistics through May 2017. No comments or petitions were received to relocate this vacancy.

         [¶ 5] The Court recently considered another judicial vacancy in the Northeast Judicial District. On April 14, 2017, based on the information provided in that matter, the Court filled a judicial vacancy in Rugby, North Dakota. See, Vacancy in Judgeship No. 2, Northeast Judicial District, 2017 ND 85, 892 N.W.2d 886. We take judicial notice of the information contained in that file.

         [¶ 6] According to the district's report, under the local rules, Judgeship No. 6 is responsible for all the caseload with Walsh County, and is primarily assigned to cases in Cavalier and Pembina Counties. Judgeship No. 6 also is required to cover other matters throughout the other ten counties in the district when a judge recuses or a timely demand for change of judge is filed.

         [¶ 7] The current weighted caseload filings continue to show a slight decrease in the Northeast Judicial District, and a corresponding decrease in judicial officer need. The 2017-16 average weighted caseload shows a statewide judicial officer shortage of 9.13. This is an overall reduction in judicial officer need of 0.79 as compared to the 2015-16. While the Northeast Judicial District is currently showing an slight overage in judicial officer need, the administrative challenges in providing timely judicial service to large, rural districts do not now favor the elimination of this judgeship.

         [¶ 8] Under the criteria of Section 4 of N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 7.2, the Court has considered all submissions received by the Court and its own administrative records on state-wide weighted caseload data.

         [¶ 9] Based on the record before us, this Court determines the office is necessary for effective judicial administration in the Northeast Judicial District.

         [¶ 10] IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, that Judgeship No. 6 at Grafton in the Northeast Judicial District be filled in the manner provided by N.D.C.C. Chapter 27-25.

         [¶ 11] Gerald W.VandeWalle, C.J., Carol Ronning Kapsner, Jerod E. Tufte, Lisa Fair McEvers

          Crothers, Justice, dissenting.

         [¶ 12] I respectfully disagree with the Court's conclusion that Judgeship No. 6 with chambers in Grafton should be retained and filled under N.D.C.C. ch. 27-25. I would transfer the judgeship to the Northeast Central Judicial District with chambers in Grand Forks. I acknowledge such a transfer would create a judge surplus in the Northeast Central Judicial District. However, the ...


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