Committee to review district judge applicantsThe North Dakota Judicial Nominating Committee will be in Jamestown later this month to review applicants for the new Southeast District judgeship position. The committee will be in Jamestown on Sept. 22-23 and will interview six candidates for the job, said Bill Neumann, North Dakota State Bar Association executive director and treasurer and secretary for the committee.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
The North Dakota Judicial Nominating Committee will be in Jamestown later this month to review applicants for the new Southeast District judgeship position.
The committee will be in Jamestown on Sept. 22-23 and will interview six candidates for the job, said Bill Neumann, North Dakota State Bar Association executive director and treasurer and secretary for the committee.
The six candidates will be whittled down to three or four and the governor can either appoint one, reject them all or call for an election of those candidates, Neumann said. The candidates are Bradley Cruff of Valley City, Kathleen Trosen of Fessenden and Fritz Fremgen, Joe Larson, Thomas Merrick and Jay Schmitz, all of Jamestown.
The judicial nominating committee has six members. Two are appointed by the president of the state bar association, two are appointed by the North Dakota chief justice and two are appointed by the governor, Neumann said.
Three other temporary members are appointed for each case on a district basis by the state bar association, chief justice and governor, said Joanne Ottmar, committee chair and attorney in Jamestown.
“I look for legal knowledge,” Ottmar said. “I look for integrity and ethics. I look for collegiality. I look for writing ability, impartiality and I also look for people that are involved in the community and do things in the community.”
Joanne Ottmar is married to Timothy Ottmar, the municipal judge in Jamestown.
She said some of the most important traits she looks for are candidates who will listen to and respect attorneys, defendants and those in the courtroom.
The only requirement to become a judge in North Dakota is a license to practice law. The committee will spend 30 minutes interviewing each candidate looking for the skills necessary to become a good judge, Neumann said.
Neumann looks for the same things as Ottmar in perspective candidates. He called it judicial demeanor, or a good listener who is patient, not arrogant and does not make people feel uncomfortable in the court room, he said.
“There are no real absolutes in terms of background,” Neumann said. “Experience gets weighed and balanced against the other candidates.”
The committee will also speak with other attorneys, judges and business and community leaders to get their opinions on the candidates, Ottmar said. The committee also has a poll from the state bar association where all the attorneys in the state and members of the bar rate candidates in different areas, she said.
“There’s a lot in this because it’s a very important position,” Ottmar said.
The judicial nominating committee only meets when called upon by the governor, Neumann said.
The governor will send out a letter that gives the committee 60 days to submit a list of applicants, the letter for the southeast district was received on July 30, Neumann said. After each candidate is interviewed, members of the committee can nominate candidates and if the candidate is seconded they move onto a vote, he said.
Then each committee member can vote for as many candidates they want and the candidates with the majority of votes are eligible for consideration, Neumann said.
If Gov. John Hoeven selects one of the candidates for the judgeship position, that candidate would serve as judge for two years until an election. If the judge wins the election, he or she will serve out the remainder of the six-year term, said Penny Miller, clerk of the North Dakota Supreme Court.
The meetings will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 22 at Buffalo City Grille and at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 23 at the Gladstone Inn and Suites and are open to the public.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org