WILLISTON - Court officials in Williams County have been forced by mounting caseload to close for a few hours each week in order to have time to properly complete office work.
As such, the Williams County Clerk of District Court office, located in the Williams County Law Enforcement Center in Williston, will be closed from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Friday, effective immediately.
Carolyn Probst, administrator of the Northwest Judicial District, which covers Williams, Ward, Mountrail, McKenzie and other heavily oil-impacted counties, announced the move this past weekend.
Probst said overall court filings increased by more than 20 percent in 2011, and thus far in 2012 are on pace to continue that trend. Compounding that matter, criminal filings - which are more time intensive, she said - have increased more than 55 percent over that same period.
The closure will enable staff in the clerk's office to process cases in a timely and efficient manner, which has become much more difficult to do in recent months, and is consistent with action taken several months ago by the Williams County Board of County Commissioners to allow several county department heads to close their offices on Friday afternoons," said Probst in a media release.
The action was taken after the court monitored patterns of personal and phone traffic in the office for several weeks. Only after determining the likely impact of such a move was the decision reached to close the clerk's office on Friday afternoons.
"The court system is trying to work as best it can with existing appropriations," Probst said. "The Clerk's office will remain open daily over the noon hour, effective immediately. The court appreciates the public's understanding and cooperation as this process moves forward."
While the clerk's office will be closed on Friday afternoons, other functions of the court will continue as normal, Probst said. Emergency assistance such as restraining and protection orders will still be available in the office of the district court, which is separate from the clerk's office.
Since 2006, caseload for the overall district has increased by nearly 50 percent, including a 43 percent increase in criminal case fillings, according to Probst.