Ensuring Access to Justice for All Minnesotans
In 2012, more than 1.4 million cases were filed in Minnesota's state courts. The cases impacted every aspect of society:
- Minnesota families filed more than 48,500 cases involving divorce, child custody, parenting time, marriage annulment, legal separation, paternity, child support, and adoption.
- More than 11,400 cases were filed alleging domestic abuse.
- Minnesota children were involved in more than 6,500 child protection cases.
- Businesses were involved in more than 13,500 civil cases, including employee and contract disputes, malpractice, and property damage.
"The courts are one of the first promises made in our Constitution. They are essential to preserving our democracy, securing the rule of law, and ensuring the public safety."
-Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea, Minnesota Supreme Court
The Right to Simple Justice: The Primary First Principle, Issue 1- Legal Costs in Minnesota, Vol. 39- 2012-2013, William Mitchell Law Review, by Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea and Matt Tews
Building a More Efficient, Accessible Court System
The Judicial Branch is implementing an ambitious reform agenda involving the use of technology and the re-engineering of business practices in a system-wide effort to expand services and ensure equal access to justice:
- Transitioning courts from the traditional paper file to electronic case records through the eCourtMN initiative will ensure convenient, timely, and appropriate access to case information for all stakeholders, and result in more timely and efficient processing of cases.
- Launching an Expedited Civil Litigation Track Pilot Project will test whether a process that assures early involvement by a judge, limited discovery, curtailed continuances, and the setting of a trial date within four to six months can reduce the duration and cost of civil suits.
- Over the past biennium, the processing of payable citations from 85 local courts was tranferred to a new, centralized Court Payment Center (CPC). The CPC processes paper and electronic citations and supports a centralized call center. As a result, payments can now be made by phone, online, or by mail. The CPC has received two national awards for innovation in court business practices. We are already seeing the benefits of this ambitious project, including a 200 percent increase in the collection of overdue fines and fees.
- Digital recording of some court proceedings in lieu of using a court reporter has resulted in a less costly and more efficient use of court reporter resources.
- Creation of the Conservator Account Auditing Program assists district courts in their oversight of conservator accounts. An online financial reporting system for conservators was also developed.
- Expanded use of interactive television to enable remote participation in court hearings is reducing travel costs and speeding case processing.
- Videos tutorials, such as “Going to Court in Minnesota,” which was designed to help immigrants, refugees, and others better understand the Minnesota court system and be prepared to go to court, have been produced.
- The creation of an online Self-Help Center is providing plain-language guidance to self-represented litigants on the most common case types.
Progress through Collaboration
The Judicial Branch continues to identify innovative ways to provide effective and cost-efficient services through justice system partnerships:
- The Minnesota State Bar Association Amicus Society- The Amicus Society is a collection of hundreds of grassroots advocates who support adequate funding for the justice system. They can be found in every corner of Minnesota. They include public defenders, judges, private practice attorneys, prosecutors, in-house counsel, and legal aid attorneys. This coalition has a unified mission of securing adequate funding for Minnesota’s justice system.
- Criminal Justice Forum- A collaboration with law enforcement, corrections, public defenders, and other criminal justice agencies focused on reducing inefficiency and increasing effectiveness in the criminal justice system.
- Criminal and Juvenile Criminal Justice Task Force- A collaboration of the Judicial Branch and justice system agencies focused on expanding information-sharing.
Judicial Branch FY 2014 Annual Budget (July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014)
- District Courts- $247,459,000. Most cases begin in district (trial) courts. District courts handle everything from traffic tickets, to civil and family conflicts, to criminal cases, including first degree murder.
- Court of Appeals- $10,641,000. Decisions of district courts, state agencies, and local governments can be appealed to the Court of Appeals, which by law must provide prompt and deliberate review. Court of Appeals decisions are the final ruling in about 95 percent of all appeals filed. In 2012, the Court issued opinions in 2,324 appeals.
- Supreme Court/State Court Administration- $32,282,000. The Minnesota Supreme Court is, in effect, the final arbitrator of the constitutional rights of the people of the state of Minnesota. Supreme Court decisions often serve as precedent for future cases. The Supreme Court reviews petitions in approximately 900 cases a year and accepts review in about one in eight cases. These cases can come from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Tax Court, the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board, and the Board on Judicial Standards. Election contests and appeals for first degree murder cases are automatically appealed to the Supreme Court. Read current Supreme Court opinions
- Total- $290,382,000
FY13 Outlook (PDF)