Access to Courts

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The DOCR is committed to ensuring residents have access to the courts for qualified legal claims. Qualified legal claims are a resident’s defense to a criminal prosecution or revocation of probation or parole; motion to correct, amend, or reduce a sentence; direct appeal to a criminal prosecution; petition for post-conviction relief; petition for a writ of habeas corpus; petition for a writ of certiorari; civil rights complaint; and condition of confinement complaint.

Access to courts may be provided by facilitating access to legal counsel for residents who are represented for qualified legal claims. For residents who have qualified legal claims and who are not represented by legal counsel, access to courts is provided by providing relevant and current legal materials, necessary supplies, and necessary services. Access to courts is also provided through access to participate in proceedings related to qualified legal claims.

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Due to COVID-19 risks, the DOCR currently is encouraging the use of mail, telephone, and technology to avoid in-person visitation and participation, when possible.

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Legal Mail

If you are a licensed attorney of record for a resident, you may send legal mail confidentially to your client. To ensure the mail is properly handled as legal mail, include your name and full address as the return address on the outside of the envelope and mark the envelope as legal, confidential, or privileged mail.

If the resident is located at North Dakota State Penitentiary (NDSP) or Missouri River Correctional Center (MRCC), please use this address:

If the resident is located at James River Correctional Center (JRCC), please use this address:

Resident Name #

North Dakota State Penitentiary

P.O. Box 5521

Bismarck, ND 58506-5521

Resident Name #

James River Correctional Center

2521 Circle Drive

Jamestown, ND 58401

 

Residents may not receive checks; money orders; money; materials in a digital format, including compact discs, flash drives, and other storage devices; binders; or contraband through the mail.  The mail will be inspected for these items in the presence of the resident.  If incoming legal mail is in a digital format, the resident has the option to return the digital format to the sender to convert the material to a paper copy or to pay a commercial vendor to convert the material to a paper copy. If incoming legal mail is bound or secured in a way that prevents inspection of the material, the resident may have the option of returning the material to the sender at the resident’s expense to be resent in a loose manner or allowing staff to take the mail apart for inspection. If an incoming legal or official document is bound or secured in a metal ring binder, the document must be removed from the binder in the presence of the resident and the binder withheld from the resident.

Legal Faxes

DOCR is unable to provide incoming or outgoing legal faxes to or from residents.

Legal Telephone Message

If you are an attorney or an investigator, paralegal, or legal assistant working for an attorney and your client is a resident at a DOCR facility, you may call the facility to request to leave a message for the resident to return your call. Staff will notify the resident of the call. The resident may not use staff phones but can purchase phone time or call collect to return the call. DOCR staff is not allowed to provide substantive legal messages to residents.

Confidential Legal Telephone Calls

Residents may call attorneys on the facility’s global contact list, either through purchased phone time or by calling collect. If an attorney is not on the global contact list, the resident may request the attorney be added. Resident phone calls with attorneys or their investigators, paralegals, or legal assistants may not be audio-monitored or recorded. The resident may not use staff phones for legal calls and will need to purchase phone time or call collect.

Confidential Video Visitation

After an attorney and resident complete the required application process, they may communicate through remote video visitation that is not audio-monitored or recorded by the DOCR. For clients at NDSP, attorneys can also use on-site video visitation to communicate from the lobby at NDSP.

  1. To register for a video visitation account, you may visit https://securustech.net/video-products/index.html and follow the prompts. You will need to mark your account as an “attorney” account, which requires a photo of the bar ID in addition to the photo and government ID.
  2. After you create an account with the DOCR’s video visitation provider, complete a visitor application.
  3. DOCR conduct a background check.
In-person Legal Visitation

The DOCR offers residents access to in-person visits with their attorneys and with currently licensed private investigators, paralegals, or legal assistants acting under the supervision of and assisting their attorneys. Due to COVID-19, the DOCR encourages the use of communication methods other than in-person visitation. However, if in-person visitation is necessary to ensure access to attorneys, the facility Warden will consider requests on a case-by-case basis.

If an in-person visit is necessary, you can request the visit through the following process:

  1. Complete a visitor’s application.
  2. Contact the DOCR facility at which your client is housed in advance of the requested visit (at least 24 hours, if possible) to submit a request for legal visitation and provide your name, date of birth, and State Bar identification number. If you are not licensed to practice in North Dakota, please include documentation of your admission to the bar in the jurisdiction in which you practice. If the visit will be conducted by one of your investigators, paralegals, or legal assistants, include documentation showing the agency relationship. You are responsible for the actions of your agent during the visit.
  3. The DOCR will inform the resident of your request. If the resident agrees to meet with you, the NDDCOR will approve and schedule the visit. If the resident does not agree to meet, the DOCR will inform you of the denial.

Other individuals acting under a court order to meet with a resident should complete the following: 

  1. Complete a visitor’s application
  2. Contact the DOCR facility at which your client is housed in advance of the requested visit to submit a request for legal visitation.
  3. Provide a signed copy of the court order for the resident’s file.
Participation in In-Person Court Proceedings

Due to COVID-19, the DOCR encourages residents to participate in court proceedings through telephone or electronic communication when possible. DOCR does not approve residents to participate in-person unless the case is a qualified legal claim, the court determines a resident’s testimony is necessary, and proper transport arrangements are made.

DOCR is not permitted to transport residents to attend hearings. For state cases, the court having jurisdiction will need to issue a transport order or writ of habeas corpus to the sheriff of the county having jurisdiction in the matter for the resident to be transported to the hearing.  For federal cases, the court having jurisdiction over the matter will need to issue a transport order or writ of habeas corpus to the United States Marshal’s Service for the resident to be transported to the hearing.

Participation in Telephonic/Electronic Court Proceedings

DOCR may allow residents to provide testimony telephonically for court proceedings if a court having jurisdiction requests or orders a resident’s testimony. The Warden or Deputy Warden may allow electronic testimony when ordered by a court or may request electronic testimony in lieu of in-person attendance, when justified by health or safety concerns, such as COVID-19.

To request a resident’s testimony telephonically or electronically, a court or attorney should communicate with the resident’s case manager who will coordinate with the facility Warden, Deputy Warden, or designee. A request should contain the following:

  1. Date and time of hearing (which generally must be a specific time);
  2. Expected length (for proceedings that are not related to the resident’s qualified legal claims, these typically must be 30 minutes or less); and
  3. Reason for hearing (typically limited to proceedings related to the resident’s qualified legal claims or proceedings in which the resident is necessary for testifying and answering questions).

The case manager will notify the resident and the court or attorney if a telephonic or electronic hearing is not approved.

Only court-ordered telephonic or electronic conferences may be placed at the DOCR’s expense. Residents may not make staff-assisted legal calls (using staff phones) unless ordered by a court having jurisdiction.