oneCourtMN Hearings Initiative (OHI)

What is the OneCourtMN Hearings Initiative (OHI)?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnesota Judicial Branch (MJB) kept the doors to justice open by moving most of its hearings online. For the first time in its history, those involved in cases could attend hearings in a virtual courtroom instead of a courthouse. When court customers, attorneys, government partners, judges, and staff told us what they thought of this practice, the message was clear: continue to offer remote hearings.  

On June 6, 2022, the Branch made remote hearings a lasting part of how it does business. In some case types, hearings are held in person, remotely, or a hybrid of the two. Which case and hearing types are right for remote or in-person attendance was decided by Judicial Council, the Minnesota Judicial Branch governing body. It also knew there was work ahead to make both remote and in-person hearings better. To that end, it formed the oneCourtMN Hearings Initiative, or OHI.

OHI is staffed by judges and staff from all levels of the organization. Together, they focus on how to use remote hearings wisely and make all hearings run smoothly. OHI gathers and analyzes data on how hearings are held, creates real life solutions to hearing challenges, offers training to users of our applications and processes, and keeps open the channels of communication.

More information about remote and in-person hearings can be found on the Going to Court and Remote Hearings pages.
 
The voices of those who use the courts drives OHI’s work. Throughout the year, the public, legal professionals, Minnesota state partner agencies, and others share their hearing experiences through meetings, surveys, and presentations. This feedback shapes the Initiative’s work in the service of equal justice to fit the needs of our customers.

Please share your remote and in-person hearing experiences by taking this brief survey.

Summaries of the OHI justice partner meetings are available below. 
To get an idea of what we’ve heard at recent meetings with those we serve, click on a link below.


May/June 2022 Meetings

October/November 2022 Meetings

The Flexible Courtroom Concept (FCC) is limited to certain hearing types in Becker and Ramsey County District Court.  Hearings eligible for the FCC will be indicated on the Hearing Notice.

The Flexible Courtroom Concept (FCC) provides judicial officers, parties, and attorneys in Becker and Ramsey counties the opportunity to choose to appear remotely or in-person for their hearing without notifying the court in advance. The FCC will be conducted as a limited rollout in Becker and Ramsey counties with a select set of judicial officers and hearing types and will run through December 2023.

In Becker County, Judge Fritz, Judge Lawson, and Judge Thilmony are participating in FCC hearings. Similarly, Judge Aligada, Judge Carey, Judge Charles, Judge Guthmann, and Judge Harris are participating in FCC hearings in Ramsey County. FCC hearings eliminate the need for attorneys, court staff, and judicial officers to file and review motions managing appearances and whether they will be in-person or remote.

Criminal case hearings and juvenile delinquency case hearings presided over by these judicial officers are included in the FCC. However, the following hearing types* will still be conducted in-person:

  • Criminal trials;
  • Criminal sentencing hearings on presumptive commits;
  • Treatment court;
  • Juvenile delinquency trials; and
  • Juvenile delinquency and criminal motion hearings where testimony will be offered.

*Ramsey County Criminal will begin the FCC on qualifying pretrial management and sentencing hearings​.

For the participating counties, hearing notices indicate if a hearing is part of the Flexible Courtroom Concept. Case participants will receive hearing notices specific to FCC. These notices inform the hearing participant that they may appear as they choose for their hearing and provides both a physical courtroom location and remote hearing information for the hearing. 

If a hearing participant is in-custody or in a facility at the time of their hearing, it is up to the facility to determine how the person will appear for their hearing (in-person or remotely). If a participant requires a writ for transport, a writ will need to be obtained.

Defense attorneys are expected to connect with their clients before their hearing so they know how their client intends to appear and can prepare appropriately. If an attorney chooses to appear for a hearing in a manner different than their client, the attorney should be prepared to facilitate any necessary communications with their client on the day of the hearing.

Data from FCC hearings in Becker and Ramsey counties as well as feedback from judicial officers, staff, justice partners, and hearing participants will be used to develop recommended practices for remote and hybrid hearings. The data and feedback will assist with future implementation of FCC in other jurisdictions if the program is continued and/or expanded.

If you have any questions or feedback regarding the Flexible Courtroom Concept, please submit them to the FCC team.

Becker County

FCC adult criminal hearing notices will be sent in Becker County starting on the week of December 19 with hearings beginning in the week of February 6, 2023.

FCC juvenile delinquency hearing notices will be sent in Becker County starting on January 3, 2023, with hearings beginning in the week of February 6, 2023.

Ramsey County

FCC adult criminal hearing notices are expected to be sent in Ramsey County starting on the week of December 19 with hearings beginning the week of February 13, 2023.

FCC juvenile delinquency hearing notices will be sent in Ramsey County starting on March 1, 2023, with hearings beginning April 2023.