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