Oral arguments regarding disciplinary actions against a Northwest Judicial District Judge accused of taking too long to issue judgment on a case were heard by the North Dakota Supreme Court Monday.
The court's judgment should be issued within 30 to 60 days.
Judge Richard Lee Hagar, who is chambered in the Ward County Courthouse in Minot, heard a divorce case, Block v. Block, on Jan. 26 through 27, 2012, in which he was to issue judgment just on the primary residence of the two minor children involved.
He issued his judgment on Nov. 16, 2012, just under 10 months after trial.
According to a brief issued by Kara J. Johnson, the assistant disciplinary counsel for the state, an attorney for one of the people involved in the divorce case had made multiple inquiries on behalf of her client to be told the status of the case. After those telephone calls did not garner action or answers, the attorney submitted letters to the court along the same lines, beginning in May 2012, roughly three months since the trial took place.
Hagar's court reporter responded that a ruling should be expected by May 23. But it still had not come by then.
Four months later, in September, the attorney sent another letter directly to Hagar about the case's status, but it still took two more months for the ruling to come.
Before it did come, though, the attorney sent a letter to Northwest Judicial District presiding Judge William W. McLees directing his attention to the slowness of the ruling, and she also filed a disciplinary complaint against Hagar.
Prior to the Block case, Hagar had been in similar circumstances.
According to a ruling filed Jan. 18, 2012, Hagar was censured by the Supreme Court, and assessed the $500 cost of the disciplinary hearing on the matter, for breaking two canons of the North Dakota Code of Judicial Conduct. Those two rules are that "a judge shall hear and decide matters assigned to the judge except those in which disqualification is required" and "a judge shall dispose of all judicial matters promptly, efficiently and fairly," according to the Supreme Court ruling on that case.
He had been served formal charges for not promptly deciding the case of Ringuette v. Ringuette, another divorce case, and was also barred from being assigned new cases by McLees until he had gotten his case docket current.
Hagar had also been instructed to submit a written plan on how he would issue rulings more promptly and keep his docket current.
Those wishing to read briefs on the matter and hear audio recordings of the oral arguments before the Supreme Court can go to the case's docket entry on the North Dakota Supreme Court website (http://bit.ly/1bdTrvt).