ND chief justice: Judicial report 'useful tool'

Associated Press Published: September 10, 2012

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A new report detailing the stress North Dakota's oil boom is putting on the legal system is a "useful tool" to approach the Legislature for help, Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle said.

Western North Dakota, where the population has increased along with oil production, needs at least two more district judges and other court personnel, according to the report. It was produced by the state Bar Association after public meetings in Bismarck, Dickinson, Minot and Williston.

VandeWalle said Monday that court workloads are also increasing outside of western North Dakota's oil-producing region.

The Supreme Court, which is responsible for administering the state's system of district trial courts, will be asking lawmakers to approve some additional judgeships, the chief justice said. North Dakota now has 44 district judges.

"North Dakota's a busy state all the way around," VandeWalle said. "If you look at Fargo and some of those areas, they are booming also."

Aside from recommending at least two new judgeships to serve Williams, Mountrail and McKenzie counties, which are leading oil producers in northwestern North Dakota, the Bar Association report suggests hiring four new court clerks in Williams County and additional clerks in Stark, Ward, Morton and Burleigh counties.

It says the association will support developing uniform security standards for county courthouses. The suggestion was prompted in part by a February 2011 incident in the Adams County courthouse in Hettinger, when a man who had just been convicted of molesting a young girl pulled a pistol in the courtroom. He was tackled by a prosecutor and the county sheriff. No one was injured.

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