News Item
Judicial Branch to move Central Appeals Unit to Lincoln and Pipestone counties

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2017

Move made as part of broader effort to sustain state’s smallest courthouses

As part of a broader effort underway to sustain court operations in the state’s lowest population counties, the Minnesota Judicial Branch is leveraging its transition to electronic court records to bring more work to Lincoln and Pipestone counties.
Effective July 17, the Minnesota Judicial Branch Central Appeals Unit (CAU) will move from the Fourth Judicial District in Hennepin County to the district courts in Lincoln and Pipestone counties, which are both part of Minnesota’s Fifth Judicial District.
The work of the CAU is to serve as a liaison between the state’s 87 trial courts and Minnesota’s two appellate courts, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
When a district court case in Minnesota is appealed to one of the state’s two appellate courts, district court staff prepare a comprehensive file of relevant court documents and exhibits to send to the Court of Appeals or the Minnesota Supreme Court. Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges rely heavily on these files to understand the facts and history of the case that have been appealed to their courts.
Historically, each of Minnesota’s 87 district courts had staff that would prepare these files for submission to the appellate courts. In late 2013, as Minnesota transitioned away from paper court files to an electronic case record, the work of preparing these files for the appellate courts was centralized into a single team working in Hennepin County. The Central Appeals Unit became responsible for the assembly and submission of electronic records to the appellate courts from all 87 district courts. This statewide centralization streamlined and expedited the appeals process, and allowed district court staff around the state to spend more time on other important case processing work. Next month, centralized appeals work from across Minnesota will be taken over by staff working in Lincoln and Pipestone counties.
“The Minnesota Judicial Branch recognizes that we have a responsibility to provide justice on a statewide basis, from our largest, most urban counties, to the smallest counties in greater Minnesota,” said State Court Administrator Jeff Shorba. “Thankfully, our transition to electronic case records has allowed us to think strategically about how to manage our courts in the most efficient way possible. By centralizing parts of our case processing work, and bringing more of that work to our smallest counties, we not only become more efficient, but we ensure that we can keep even the smallest courthouses in the state open to the public.”
Fifth Judicial District Administrator Mike Kelley noted that there are wide disparities in workloads between the state’s 87 district courts. In 2016, nearly 500,000 cases were filed in Hennepin County District Court. That same year, the total number of cases filed in both Lincoln and Pipestone county district courts was slightly more than 3,000.
“There is no question that the work of our courts in outstate Minnesota is much different than the work of our courts in the metro area,” said Kelley. ”However, thanks to our move to electronic case records, every court employee in the state can collaborate and work together to support our statewide system of justice. This is a big step forward for greater Minnesota, and will help ensure that Minnesotans can continue to access their justice system no matter which part of the state they live in.” 
In addition to the transition of the Central Appeals Unit to southwest Minnesota, the Minnesota Judicial Branch is currently exploring implementation of several other projects aimed at sustaining the state’s smallest district courts. This includes the centralizing of jury summons processing in the Ninth Judicial District in the northwest part of the state, and centralizing certain types of child support case processing in the Eighth Judicial District in west central Minnesota.