oneCourt MN: A Decade of Innovation and Transformation
Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2022
By Jeff Shorba, State Court Administrator for the Minnesota Judicial Branch
This October marks my 10-year anniversary as Minnesota’s State Court Administrator. Over the past decade, I have been privileged to be part of a historic transformation in our state court system that has increased access to justice, enhanced efficiency in our justice system, and improved how we serve the people of Minnesota. When the COVID-19 pandemic challenged our judiciary in unprecedented ways, our courts kept an open door to justice through innovation and the dedication of our judges and staff.
My time as State Court Administrator began at the start of our eCourtMN revolution when our courts embraced the electronic court record and replaced paper court files with a new digital environment. Today, court users can electronically file and serve court documents, and we can instantly share electronic court records across our state’s justice system.
We have leveraged this technology to help people navigate the court system and make our courts more accessible and equitable. Minnesotans can now visit the Minnesota Judicial Branch website to find an array of online tools to help them understand complex legal issues or easily complete common court forms. They can sign up for text or email reminders of upcoming court hearings. They can access and download court documents from our district and appellate courts. They can watch livestreams of state Supreme Court proceedings.
This technological evolution in our courts paid immeasurable dividends during the pandemic, as we quickly shifted a vast majority of court hearings from our physical courthouses to online courtrooms. Even during the most challenging moments of the pandemic, our statewide court system still held virtually the same number of court hearings each week as we were before the pandemic. The difference was that 70 to 80 percent of those hearings were held over Zoom.
The tools we have embraced over the past decade have made a positive difference for the people we serve. Leveraging technology is just one aspect of our work to provide a more accessible and equitable justice system. Over the past decade, we have also transformed how we work and the services we provide.
We expanded access to civil legal services in underserved communities, doubled the number of drug courts and other treatment court programs across the state, and became the national model for how to protect elderly and vulnerable adults from financial abuse through our conservator account auditing and review programs. Our Committee for Equality and Justice has tackled vital issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our courts by creating tools to address implicit bias and identifying disparities in our justice system.
Today, court systems across the nation look to Minnesota as a leader in innovation, accessibility, fairness, and customer service.
Looking ahead, we are building on the incredible progress of the past decade and the lessons learned from the pandemic to improve how we serve the people of Minnesota. Ensuring fairness and equity in our courts, improving customer service, and creating a quality workplace will continue to guide and prioritize the work of the courts.
On behalf of the judges and staff of the Minnesota Judicial Branch, I thank the people of Minnesota for their support and investment in our state courts. We will continue striving to earn that trust by providing consistent, responsive, high-quality court services throughout Minnesota and ensuring that all Minnesotans have fair and timely access to justice.