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AS I SEE IT

Posted 6/12/13 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The wheels of progress too often move far more slowly than the people being impacted the most would like to see. But as long as progress is being made, most people can at least live with the inconvenience.
That seems to be the story in North Dakota’s oil patch where no matter what is being proposed, it is never enough. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about new homes and apartments that are being built or new gas stations, restaurants or retail businesses that will be opening soon, the demand always seems to exceed the supply.
The same can be said for the area’s judicial system. As the number of court cases in western North Dakota has grown exponentially along with our growing population, the lack of judges to serve this area’s court system has virtually ground to a halt. The days of a speedy appearance in court for most violators has turned into a several month process. And that is not good. It’s not good for the people and the attorneys who have to make repeated trips to the courthouse for their hearings. And it is not good for the judges and the court staff to have to deal with the increasing workload.
But the good news is that the North Dakota Legislature approved two new judges for the Northwest Judicial District with one of those judges to be chambered in Watford City.
And with the growth of court cases being filed in McKenzie County growing, the Supreme Court’s decision to add a judge in Watford City will definitely make a difference. The growth in cases tells the need for this judge. According to court records, in 2010 there were 3,911 cases filed in McKenzie County. By 2011, that number had increased to 5,333 cases and last year, in 2012, 9,179 cases.
The number of cases in Williams County followed a very similar growth pattern with the number of cases growing from 6,971 to 10,635.
But even by the Supreme Court’s own admission, providing two new district judgeships in the Northwest Judicial District is not going to solve all the problems or completely reduce the delays, and in reality, the district will continue to be short judges.
While the Supreme Court considered placing the judge in Williston, Stanley or Watford City, the court’s ultimate decision was that the judicial process would best be served with the judgeship being chambered in Watford City.
We couldn’t agree more.