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Minnesota's Courts Get High Marks For Fairness

Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Minnesotans’ trust and confidence in their courts are high, and have risen in recent years, according to a survey recently conducted for the Minnesota Judicial Branch.  The survey was a follow-up to a 1999 study of public attitudes toward the courts.

The Minnesota Judicial Council, which governs the state’s trial and appellate courts, plans to use the study in its efforts to improve court effectiveness, according to Chief Justice Russell Anderson, who also serves as head of the Judicial Council.

“The employees and judges of Minnesota’s Judicial Branch enjoy a high degree of trust and confidence from Minnesotans, and we intend to work hard to keep and even improve that confidence,” Chief Justice Anderson said.

In the survey of 800 respondents, 80 percent expressed confidence in the courts.  Other results of note are:

•     Eighty-five percent of respondents said court employees are “helpful,” and 84 percent described them as “courteous.”

•     Eighty-one percent of respondents said they believed judges were “fair in deciding cases,” and “treat people with respect” (87 percent).

•     Survey respondents described judges as “honest and trustworthy” (94 percent), “fair” (87 percent), “qualified” (94 percent) and “dedicated to facts and law” (90 percent).

•     A solid 88 percent majority believe “courts protect people’s constitutional rights.”  

•     Minnesotans believe it takes too long for cases to be resolved, and costs too much.

•     Respondents gave the courts lower marks for treatment of minority groups, the poor, and non-English speakers.  “This perception of bias troubles us greatly,” said Chief Justice Anderson, who noted that the Judicial Council’s strategic plan for the next three years includes a special focus on this disparity.

•     Respondents showed a strong preference for keeping judges free from political pressures, but offered a mixed picture when it came to questions about political endorsements and campaign contributions. 

The Minnesota Difference: The Minnesota Court System and the Public,” was conducted by Decision Resources Limited, a Minneapolis based opinion research company.  Complete details and findings of the survey can be found in the Publications and Reports section at www.mncourts.gov.