Caseloads increase, judges decrease in ND judicial system

ND Great Seal
ND Great Seal(KFYR)
Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 5:28 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Whether you’re at odds with the law, on the right side of a dispute, or have been called to jury duty, chances are you’ve had a brush with the North Dakota judicial system at one point or another. As the caseloads increase and the number of judges decrease, Chief Justice Jon Jenson addressed the Legislative Assembly.

The unified state court system has 52 trial court judges and five justices serving across eight districts. They handle roughly 180,000 cases each year, and Chief Justice Jensen says that number is growing.

He says the growth is seen across every district, but the numbers of judicial officers are lacking. He says despite the “incredible” workload, judges continue to perform within time standards.

“Our state should be proud that less than two-tenths of one percent of our cases fall outside those standards and the majority of those cases are outside the standard at the request of the parties or other factors outside the control of the judicial branch,” said Chief Justice Jensen as he addressed the Legislative Assembly Wednesday.

At the Legislative Assembly, Jensen said the Judicial Branch has several priorities. He requested the transfer of contract clerks to state employment, a concept that was first set forth in 1975, and asked for an increase in budget to attract judges to positions.

“We have great judges in North Dakota, but that is because of good fortune,” he said. “A healthy judicial bench has individuals from diverse backgrounds; people who have represented farmers, ranchers, small and large businesses, families and others in private practice.”

Trial judges in the state handle everything from traffic tickets to business disputes to murder cases.

Chief Justice Jensen said in the past five years they’ve had several open judgeships filled by election with only one candidate on the ballot.