1. Do you have any prior personal or professional experience in juvenile court?
2. Are your currently using any types of ADR in juvenile court, in particular family group conferencing and restorative justice programs?
We do use family group counseling and are currently doing a pilot mediation project in child protection cases. Restorative justice is also in the array of community based services used by the probation department on low level delinquency offenses.
3. Do you have any new or innovative ideas that you are implementing to manage the high volume of juvenile court cases?
Keeping in mind that the goal of the juvenile justice system in Minnesota is to restore a child to law abiding behavior, we are developing new programs including the move to an evidence based practice system in juvenile delinquency matters and community based alternatives to bench warrants and treatment. We are always striving for new and better ways to restore children to law abiding behavior using the least restrictive and most effective alternatives available. There is a new focus on community based alternatives for low level juvenile offenders and children in need of protection and services.
4. Are you in compliance with the timelines in the Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure and the Adoption and Safe Families Act, and if not, what procedures are you implementing to attempt to get in compliance?
We monitor all cases monthly and do our best to be in compliance with the timelines.
5. How do you schedule hearings on these cases that often involve 4 or 5 attorneys (county attorney, public defender, attorneys for parent(s), children, guardian ad litem, etc.) and what are you doing to handles the delays that often arise in starting the hearing when all of the attorneys may not be present and may be handling other matters in other courtrooms (especially county attorneys and public defenders)?
Scheduling is always a challenge so I ask that attorneys bring their calendars to every hearing. My practice is to always set future admit/deny, review hearing, pre-trial and trial dates up front regardless of the number of people involved in the case. If an attorney appearing on behalf of a party is not the attorney of record, I ask that he or she have available the calendar for the attorney of record so that future court dates can be set. If an attorney does not have the calendar for the attorney of record available, or if a conflict attorney is yet to be appointed, I still insist that the future dates are set. It is amazing how often the dates chosen work out without rescheduling. I do not wait until the pre-trial date to set the trial date. A hearing date can always be changed later if necessary. It is better to have dates reserved early on in a case than to try to get dates, particularly trial dates, at the last minute. Given the timelines in child protection cases, organization and scheduling are crucial to staying in compliance.
6. How do you make sure that private attorneys are kept apprised of possible “standing juvenile court orders” and even that the private attorneys get copies of the orders from their own cases given that the system is so much more geared to government attorneys (i.e. county attorneys and public defenders)?
Normally the private attorneys we see are familiar with the system. Non government attorneys, new attorneys, or attorneys unfamiliar with the system are encouraged to ask questions and should take time at the end of hearings to meet with opposing counsel. There is a collection of standing orders that can be accessed through administrative law clerk Angela Willms at email@example.com and 612-596-7113. All attorneys appearing before me are encouraged to call my law clerk Maggie Skelton (612-596-7753) or administrative clerk Mary Thies (612-543-0150) if they have questions. Attorneys are encouraged to call the clerk(s) of any judge before whom they have cases pending to get answers to their questions about standing orders, courtroom procedures, etc.
7. Is the court administrator using the Supreme Court forms for private CHIPS petitions and private TPR petitions? Is the court taking responsibility for serving these documents and is a filing fee being charged?
Yes, the Supreme Court forms are used. The court does take responsibility for the service of the documents, however, a service fee may be charged by the sheriff. The filing fee is $323 and is paid by the petitioner (unless an in forma pauperis is granted). There may be additional fees. If you have questions about filing fees, costs or procedures, call CHIPS administration at 612-596-7112.
8. With private placement adoption pleadings that receive ex parte review, do you prefer that these go to the adoption clerk or directly to the signing judge?
Adoption pleadings should be directed to the adoption clerk, Lindsey Russo, at firstname.lastname@example.org and 612-596-7118.
9. Are you allowing motions to be heard at pre-trial conferences?
Generally, yes. The court should be notified and briefs filed in advance of the pre-trial if the parties wish to argue a motion at pre-trial. Judges like to read the motions ahead of time so we are prepared. Motions should go directly to the assigned judge, if the case is specially assigned, as opposed to the judge hearing the regular pre-trial calendar. If the case is not specially assigned, direct the motion to the judge assigned to hear pre-trials on your pre-trial day. A courtesy copy of your motion and any briefs, memoranda or other paperwork associated with that motion, should be sent directly to the correct pre-trial judge, either by email or hard copy, as sometimes it takes a day or two for filed paperwork to catch up with a file.
10. Do you actively engage yourself in settlement negotiations at pre-trial conferences, including expressing what you would do on the case if you were asked to decide it then?
Parties are strongly encouraged to discuss settlement prior to their court date. Open and early discovery is available so that the parties know where they stand prior to the pre-trial. Unless the parties arrive early, extended discussions on pre-trial day that occur immediately prior to the scheduled pre-trial time slot are discouraged because they tend to slow down and back up the calendar for the entire day.
Judges decide cases based on the evidence presented at trial and, therefore, cannot know or express how they would rule in a given case prior to hearing all the evidence. Typically, however, judges try to facilitate and encourage meaningful settlement discussions between the parties. If the parties can resolve the case, then the parties retain a large measure of control over the outcome, assuming the judge approves the settlement. Once the judge hears the case at trial, control over the outcome rests solely with the judge.
11. Do you routinely allow the entire child protection file into evidence or do you require each document in file to be admitted separately and in compliance with the rules of evidence?
Attorneys practicing in the child protection area should become familiar with the applicable case law regarding the necessary foundation for the admission of business records and other reports that are typical in CHIPS cases. Case law addresses the types of documents that can come into evidence via testimony by the child protection worker and those that require something more. Judges follow the applicable case law and rules with regard to evidence.