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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published January 09 2013

ND chief justice bemoans ‘conveyor-belt’ legal process

BISMARCK - North Dakota Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle said today that one new judge described the state’s strained judicial system as “conveyor-belt justice.”

VandeWalle told a joint session of the Legislature that the system has “increased efficiencies but cutting corners comes at the cost of serving the public.”

The largest challenge the state is facing is the rapid population growth that has come with the oil boom.

VandeWalle said a 15-minute court hearing is a luxury with the amount of casework judges are hearing across the state. He said that 15 minutes is five minutes longer than the state’s average protection order hearing and five times longer than the state’s average bail hearing.

“We have now reached a crisis point where judicial services are suffering throughout the state,” ”We can no longer serve the growing needs of one area of the state at the expense, by cannibalizing, other parts of the state.”

To address some of the needs, VandeWalle happily spoke as a proud alumnus of the University of North Dakota School of Law about the governor’s recommendation of $12 million for capital improvements to the school.

With a substantial majority of practicing lawyers in North Dakota coming out of the UND School of Law, VandeWalle said the investments will continue to impact the state.

“They chose to remain in North Dakota and become hard-working professionals who contribute to our economy and our communities,” he said.