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What Are North Dakota Specialty Courts?

North Dakota Specialty Courts are a set of trial courts, and judicial programs with jurisdiction limited to certain areas. Some of the Specialty Courts in North Dakota are:

  • Domestic Violence Court
  • Juvenile Court
  • Adult Hybrid DWI/ Drug Court
  • Juvenile Drug Court
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution

Domestic Violence Courts

The Domestic Violence Court is a post-sentencing initiative created under section 14–07.1–08.1 of the North Dakota Century Code. The District Court may require that an individual who has committed a domestic violence crime complete a domestic violence treatment as a probation condition. This treatment is performed under the supervision of the Domestic Violence Court. The court was set up to ensure that court orders are obeyed, victims are kept safe, and there is a reduction in domestic violence recurrence. The types of cases that could be referred to the Domestic Violence Court include:

  • Criminal offenses with domestic violence elements
  • Intimate partner domestic violence offenses
  • Other defendants ordered to complete domestic violence offender treatment.

The courts mainly focus on misdemeanor or felony criminal offenses that involve adult defendants in intimate relationships. Participants in a Domestic Violence Court must so the following:

  • Complete orientation within two weeks of sentencing or release
  • Meet with the project coordinator to review the Domestic Violence Court’s procedure and orientation course
  • Sign all releases of information
  • Read participant handbook

In addition to the above, participants must also comply with all court-stipulated orders. These orders may include community service, mental health evaluation or treatment, employment, or chemical dependency evaluation or treatment. 

The Domestic Violence Court is currently only available in Grand Forks County. It is staffed by two District Court judges that carry out sittings on Mondays at 3: 30 p.m.

Juvenile Courts

North Dakota Juvenile Courts are a subset of the District Courts. The court’s jurisdiction extends to all persons below 18 years old, referred to as a result of delinquent or unruly behavior. Delinquency refers to acts that are considered a crime if done by an adult, such as stealing or robbery. On the other hand, unruly behavior refers to actions particular to children, such as truancy.

The Juvenile Court also has jurisdiction over children who are suspected to be victims of child deprivation. The court holds concurrent jurisdiction with the District Court over guardianship of children below the age of 18.

Cases are normally presented to the Juvenile Court through referrals from law enforcement agencies. Referrals can also be made by parents, county social services, and schools. Children who are subject to Juvenile Court proceedings are usually not locked up unless the children:

  • May endanger themselves, others, or destroy property.
  • May leave or be removed from the court’s jurisdiction and stop attending proceedings.
  • Have no guardians, parents, relatives, or other persons willing and capable of taking responsibility for the child
  • Require protection

Juvenile Court proceedings may be conducted through hearings or informal adjustment procedures. Informal adjustment is a process where a court agrees on the resolution of the case through specific methods. Some of those methods may include probation, community services, restitution to a victim, assessment of risks and needs, education, counseling, or any other appropriate plan. Formal Juvenile Court proceedings are held before District Court judges and are not open to the public. 

A Director of Juvenile Court Services is appointed to oversee all Juvenile Court activities within each state administrative unit. For visits or further information on the Juvenile Courts, interested persons may contact directors using the information below:

Shawn Peterson

Director of Juvenile Court 

Grafton: (701) 352–0671

Grand Forks: (701) 787–2770

Devils Lake: (701) 662–1307

Unit Two

Karen Kringlie, JD

Director of Juvenile Court 

Fargo: (701) 451–6980

Jamestown: (701)252–9039

Unit Three

Carrie Hjellming

Director of Juvenile Court 

Bismarck: (701) 222–6709

Dickinson: (701) 227–3170

Unit Four

Scott Hopwood

Director of Juvenile Court 

Minot: (701) 857–6650

Williston: (701) 774–4371

Adult Hybrid Dwi/ Drug Court

The North Dakota Adult Hybrid DWI/ Drug Court is a court-supervised treatment initiative for high-risk and high-need offenders with drug abuse and reliance problems. This is a voluntary program where offenders must make regular court appearances before the Drug Court judge, who monitors progress. As part of the program, participants must undergo treatment, submit to random drug testing, and regularly attend self-help meetings. The program’s duration depends on the participant’s progress but must be at least 14 months. 

Successful completion of the program may result in early termination of probation, dismissal of charges, or modification of probation conditions. Eligible candidates must have multiple prior misdemeanor or felony offenses. If the case involves a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge, the candidate must have over 3 DUIs. The offense for which the candidate is brought for the program must be a Class A misdemeanor or greater. A first-time felony offender may be accepted where there is also a history of substance abuse.  

A Drug Court Judge makes all decisions concerning the participants in the Drug Court treatment program. The Drug Court team consists of:

  • The state’s attorney
  • Defense counsel
  • Probation officer
  • Treatment provider
  • Community service providers
  • Law enforcement representatives
  • Program coordinator

Adult Drug Courts are located in five of the eight judicial districts in the state. Requests for admission are sent to the coordinators listed on the address. Drug Court Judges preside over sittings for no less than two years to ensure continuity in proceedings. 

Juvenile Drug Courts

Juvenile Drug Courts are separate courts that are part of the Juvenile Court system within the District Court. It is a post-petition/post-adjudication program that seeks to reduce juvenile delinquency and substance abuse. The program targets youth who are less likely to have positive results from the traditional juvenile court system. At the beginning of the program, participants must regularly appear before the court for progress review. The program involves participation in:

  • Intensive treatment
  • Alcohol and drug testing
  • Community service
  • Sanctions and incentives

The Juvenile Drug Court team may also add additional programs. The team consists of:

  • The Drug Court judge
  • Prosecutor
  • Defense Counsel
  • Probation officer
  • Coordinator
  • Treatment provider
  • School representative
  • Law Enforcement

Criteria for eligibility include:

  • Age (The court may place more urgency on persons between 14 and 17 years old)
  • The juvenile’s place of residence of the juvenile
  • The availability of a parent, legal guardian, or another responsible adult to attend court hearings and participate in proceedings.
  • Timely Diagnosis of a substance abuse disorder
  • Prior admission to the Juvenile Drug court
  • Juvenile’s past or current charges
  • Juvenile’s school records, particularly in relation to suspensions or expulsions

There are Juvenile Drug Courts in six judicial districts within the state. Juvenile Drug Court records are only open to the public in exceptional circumstances. Where the court is satisfied with the circumstances, requestors may obtain records by contacting the coordinators within the district where the program was carried out.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

The North Dakota Judicial System encourages the adoption of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods for resolving disagreements. Cases suitable for ADR include: 

  • Civil arbitration
  • Civil mediation
  • Family, divorce, child custody mediation

In civil cases, the North Dakota Supreme Court requires that parties and their attorneys carefully consider ADR. Therefore, within 60 days of filing a lawsuit, the parties must file a statement on accepting or rejecting ADR.

Rule 8.9 of the North Dakota Rules of Court requires that the State Court Administrator maintains a roster of neutrals on civil arbitration, civil mediation, and domestic relations or contested child proceedings mediation. If the parties agree to an ADR process but cannot agree on a neutral, the court may designate a person from the ADR neutral roster. Names on the roster are required to meet certain requirements as stipulated in Rule 8.9.  

Court-sponsored ADR processes are confidential and not open to the public. Any disclosure of confidential ADR communications must be authorized by the court and agreed to by the parties.

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