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News & Press: SBAND

UND School of Law Funding Increase

Tuesday, March 5, 2019  
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The University of North Dakota School of law is currently facing a budget deficit due to recent cuts to the University of North Dakota budget. The deficit is currently affecting the number of tenure track professors at the School of Law, which could ultimately have an impact on the school’s accreditation and standing with the American Bar Association. The recently failed search for a new Dean was in large part due to the budget issues, and the lack of funding for tenure track faculty. The current budget has had a significant and adverse impact on the School of Law’s ability to attract and retain top faculty and administration. The budget deficit is also impacting the ability of the school to recruit and retain qualified students, who eventually become the next generation of North Dakota lawyers.
Our state’s law school produces the majority of attorneys for North Dakota, and just as important, our attorneys are leaders in communities across the state and region. For those practicing in North Dakota, your new hires will likely be University of North Dakota School of Law graduates. It is also vitally important to the citizens of North Dakota, who rely on us for every day legal needs, to have quality students graduating from our state’s only law school. 
An obvious solution is that the School of Law needs increased funding and no further cuts. SBAND’s Board of Governors recently voted to act by supporting an amendment to
HB1002, which would increase civil filing fees in North Dakota by $100. You can read the proposed amendments here. Civil filings in North Dakota for the 2015-2017 biennium totaled 47,654 cases. The $100 increase in the filing fee could provide an additional $4,765,400 per biennium for the School of Law. The number is obviously somewhat fluid and could change over time. And there are cases in which the fee is waived for those who cannot afford it.
Filing a federal civil action in North Dakota requires a fee of $400. Other states in our region have higher filing fees as well. In Minnesota, it costs $295 to start an action, and there are other miscellaneous fees depending on the type of case or the action taken. Montana recently raised its filing fee from $90 to $170 in a civil action. 
North Dakota’s filing fee is low, $80. An increase to $180 is still much less than federal court and Minnesota, and on par with Montana. The amendment provides that the funds will go directly to the School of Law and not into the University of North Dakota’s general budget. 
SBAND cannot achieve the passage of this amendment alone. I am confident your state legislator would value your opinion on this issue and I would encourage you to reach out to them. At the end of the day, the funding issues for the School of Law are real, are not going away without action, and have had significant negative impacts. We have a responsibility as a profession to be sure our legal educational infrastructure is robust. This proposed funding paradigm will provide a dedicated and long-term source of funds for the law school. 

Thank you.


Zack Pelham
SBAND President

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