BISMARCK, N.D. — A proposal by North Dakota judges who say out-of-state lawyers are no longer needed to represent Dakota Access pipeline protesters has drawn hundreds of complaints.
Judges from the state’s South Central District, who have been handling the protest cases, say the legal provisions are no longer justified because no new cases have been filed, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
A majority of the more than 500 comments to state court officials are against the move, with many saying there’s still too much unfinished business for appointed attorneys to handle. The waiver has allowed out-of-state attorneys to represent clients as long as they sponsored by a North Dakota lawyer.
“To discontinue the special provisions at this juncture would do a great disservice to justice as it would undoubtedly result in disruption of legal representation in active cases and higher rates of unrepresented individuals,” Spirit Lake Tribal Chairwoman Myra Pearson wrote in her objection.
One comment supporting the judges’ proposal came from North Dakota Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents, which handled 435 pipeline protest cases.
“The DAPL case assignments added significant work volume and contributed to a record-breaking year,” wrote H. Jean Delaney, the commission’s executive director. “However, the protests appear to have concluded, and there haven’t been any additional assignments since July.”
The comment period on the proposal ended Monday. Supreme Court Clerk Penny Miller says she expects the court to take up the matter within the next couple of weeks.
About 830 criminal cases were filed in connection to the DAPL protests. More than 400 have closed, most of them with dismissed charges.
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com