Barb Hill retires as clerk of court for Stutsman County

Barb Hill retires after 30 years working in the judicial system in Stutsman County.

Hill Ottmar
Barb Hill, left, and Joanne Ottmar exchange pleasantries during Hill's retirement open house at the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse on May 27. Keith Norman / The Sun

Changes have been frequent and major over the 30 years that Barb Hill has worked at the clerk of court's office at the Stutsman County Courthouse.

The legal and court community in Jamestown honored Hill on her retirement on May 27 at the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse.

"Barb was a joy to work with and a good person to know," said Jay Schmitz, one of the judges of Southeast District Court.

Hill was initially hired as a temporary clerk for Stutsman County Court in January 1991 by Judge Harold Herseth. At that time, district and county courts were separate with different judges and clerical staff. County Court handled misdemeanor criminal cases and preliminary hearings for felony cases that were ultimately tried in District Court.

"I started working in County Court," Hill said. "Then they combined the courts in the late 1990s."


This created a single court handling misdemeanor and felony cases.

"The transition was good because for County Court, after the preliminary hearings the case moved on to District Court and we weren't involved any longer," she said. "With the combination, we took on all cases. We learned a lot."

It was the first of many changes she dealt with during her career.

"The big changes were more technology," Hill said. "That was a big change."

The adoption of the Odyssey computer software came in 2010 and was considered a big change at the time, she said. The Odyssey system is still used for the administrative and recordkeeping system for the North Dakota court system.

Two years later in 2012, courts in North Dakota went paperless marking another major change for the courts, Hill said.

Through it all, the clerk of court's position has remained important as a record-keeping and administrative function of the court system, said Norine Knudson, who served as clerk of district court from 1978 to 2000.

But those changes were planned and implemented on a schedule. They are also small compared to the changes forced by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.


"For COVID, the big change was hearings conducted by Zoom," Hill said. "We kept the court docket going and didn't fall behind."

Holding hearings by Zoom allowed the defendant, attorneys and judge to be at different locations allowing everyone to social distance and remain safe from COVID, Hill said. Jury trials were still conducted in person utilizing the courtroom in the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse.

Some of the COVID restrictions are being lifted and a six-person jury is planned next week in the courtrooms located in the modern Stutsman County Courthouse, Hill said.

Even with the changes, Hill said she has enjoyed working in the court system.

"My position with the judicial system for the past 30 years has been memorable," Hill said. "I've made so many work friends and will miss my work friends and family."

What To Read Next
Get Local