North Dakota

State/Local Funding

  • The North Dakota Judiciary is a state funded system. 
  • The state pays for the Appellate Courts, the AOC, salaries of judges and their support staff and for trial court clerical staff, operating expenses and technology.  The expense of local courthouses and equipment is shared with local funding bodies.

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • North Dakota has a biennial budget.
  • State and federal grant appropriations for the two years ending 2013 are $85.7 million, roughly a $2 million increase over the previous biennium.  The state general fund appropriation for the two years ending in 2013 is $83.5 million.
  • Local funding bodies have made small funding increases every budget cycle since 2002.
  • Technology funding has increased 20% over the past four years.
  • The Judicial Branch budget situation over the next three years is likely to improve.

Funding Principles for Judicial Administration

  • The Judicial Branch presents its budget directly to the Legislature.
  • The Judiciary has the authority to move funds between line items.
  • North Dakota’s budget enables the courts to provide and enhance necessary technology. 
  • The introduction of technology has enabled the litigants, attorneys, others in government and the public to receive enhanced court services.

            1.  Secure public access allows attorneys and justice system partners to access and print documents via the
                 internet at no cost to them.

            2.  E-Service allows attorneys to electronically serve documents on others even if a case has not been initiated 
                 or they are not e-filing a document at the same time they are serving the other side.

            3.  Web payments and Interactive Voice Response payment systems allow litigants to make payments faster
                 and on a 24/7 schedule.

            4.  Public Access via the internet is near real-time and allows litigants, attorneys, the media, and other
                 interested persons to monitor case updates and account balances at any time.

            5.  Report functionality in the case management system allows the system to automatically compile specific
                 information, create a report, and email the report to specific individuals at specified times. examples include
                 court calendars, persons placed on probation, cases in which a pre-sentence investigation report has been
                 ordered and entry or modification of money judgments.

Steps Taken to Address Tough Economic Times

Staffing Levels and Operating Expenses:  Over the past four years, the number of judges and trial court staff has increased.  The amount spent on trial court operating expenses has increased.

Service Reductions:  Over the past four years, there have been no budget related service reductions.  However, the North Dakota courts have had to reduce hours of operation and are experiencing delays in processing cases due to chronic judge and staffing shortages that are unrelated to the budget situation and which have been exacerbated by the recent, rapid development of energy sources throughout the state (including oil, natural gas, wind and biofuels).

Efficiency Measures:  The North Dakota courts have implemented e-filing, an electronic document management system, an enhanced case management system, electronic workflow and e-payment of fees and fines.  They have implemented a virtual web-based information center to provide public access to court records.   They have enabled law enforcement to file e-citations.  They plan to implement a virtual self-help center in the 2013-2015 biennium.

Restructuring:  Restructuring of the court system has been occurring since the mid-1980s and was completed in 2001.  The North Dakota Judiciary has used weighted caseload studies and workload assessment studies since 2001 for the purpose of reallocating judicial officers and court staff.

  • The Judiciary has not consolidated courthouses within a county or region and there are no plans to do so in the foreseeable future.

Business Processes:  The courts have implemented a new case management program and have implemented in-court updating for docket entries and orders.  Additional processes were improved prior to 2009, unrelated to budget restrictions.

Outsourcing:  Network services are provided by the Executive Branch.  Language interpreters are outsourced.

Centralization:  Since 2009, North Dakota has centralized collection processes in one district and has centralized jury qualification and summoning in two districts.  End-to-end electronic citation processing is used in 80% of the state. 

The North Dakota Judiciary is in a better position than they have ever been to provide access and timely justice.  However, they have increasing backlogs in some areas of the state due to chronic staffing shortages that have been exacerbated by exploding caseload in the last three to five years. 

Reports and Articles

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