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Court Case Look-Up Service Draws More Than One Million Searches in First Year

Posted: Friday, April 03, 2009

More than 1.2 million case searches were conducted in the first year Minnesota's district court records were accessible over the Internet. The statewide trial court records search engine, Minnesota Public Access Remote (MPA), is one of the benefits from the creation of a new statewide court records database, the Minnesota Court Information System (MNCIS).  MNCIS, a state-of-the-art case management system, took five years to complete and cost $30 million. It combined 10 databases then in use around the state and includes case records dating back to the 1970s.

The case look-up service allows individuals to find district court case records online through the Minnesota Judicial Branch Website. The service allows criminal case searches by case number, defendant name, or attorney name. Name searches are limited to cases where at least one charge has resulted in a conviction. More complete case information can be obtained at public service computers located in courthouses.

Civil, family, and probate cases can be searched by party name, case number, or attorney name. The service also enables users to search court calendars by party, business name, case number, judicial officer, or attorney name.

Supreme Court and Court of Appeals court records and opinions are also available on the Judicial Branch Website.

"Hundreds of court employees worked very hard over many years to replace an inefficient and outdated case records system with a first-rate case management system," said State Court Administrator Sue Dosal. "This new system allows better sharing of records with law enforcement and our other justice system partners, and enables us to add new Web-based services like the case look-up function."

In addition to providing easier public access to district court records, MNCIS enables the Judicial Branch to share court records with other justice system agencies, including policymakers, law enforcement, prosecutors, and corrections officials. It will also over time make possible labor savings by automating processes now done by hand.

"The investment in MNCIS will pay dividends for Minnesota citizens and for the justice system for years to come," said Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson. "It's a perfect example of the value of investing in new, more efficient ways of operating the court system."

Court officials caution against using the case look-up service for criminal background checks. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension offers a criminal background check service that links prior criminal history through fingerprints to verify identification of the individual. The MPA service for court records cannot provide this level of verification.

Court officials also caution that name searches conducted through the MPA service could be unreliable because the person identified in the search could have the same name, birth date, or other identifiers as someone else. In addition, criminal offenders frequently use aliases, including the names of others.

Court system staff continues to work to eliminate duplicate records and mistaken entries within the MPA system. Court officials are hoping people who find an error in a court record will notify the district court in the county that created the record so the record can be corrected. Viewers will not be able to modify the case records. Only court administrators can authorize changes.