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Published May 23, 2013, 08:46 AM

Williston to get third state district court judge

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — One of two new judgeships in North Dakota's Northwest Judicial District will be based in Williston, the state Supreme Court has decided.

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — One of two new judgeships in North Dakota's Northwest Judicial District will be based in Williston, the state Supreme Court has decided.

The decision will give the city in the heart of North Dakota's growing oil patch three judges to handle an increasing caseload.

"The Northwest Judicial District is currently where the majority of the state's oil and gas activity is taking place, and Williston is at the center," justices said in their decision. "This activity has dramatically impacted essential service providers, including the court system. Case filings are significantly increasing throughout the district."

Williams County, which surrounds Williston, had 6,971 cases in 2010 and 10,635 cases in 2012 — a 53 percent increase, according to the Supreme Court.

"The workload of the judicial officers in the district will continue to increase, as there is no evidence that interest in the oil and gas reserves in the Bakken and Three Forks Formations will soon subside," the Supreme Court said. "Williston topped $470 million last year in construction and remodel permit valuation, and added a dozen new hotels since 2010. Chambering a third judge in Williston will reduce the continually increasing workload of the two district judges currently there and aid in the prompt disposition of cases."

The Supreme Court has not decided where to base the second new judgeship approved by the Legislature, though district Court Administrator Carolyn Probst told the Minot Daily News it likely will be chambered in Stanley or Watford City. The district right now has judges only in Williston and Minot.

"McKenzie County has a much larger caseload coming through there and Mountrail has been hit hard as well," she said, referring to the oil patch counties surrounding those two cities.

The Legislature also approved a new judgeship in the southeast part of the state. The Supreme Court has not yet decided where it will be based.

With the three new positions, the state will have a total of 47 judgeships. The three new positions need to be filled by Gov. Jack Dalrymple within 30 days of the law taking effect July 1.

Construction of a new chambers and a third courtroom in Williston will be complete in August, the Williston Herald reported.

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