Hello, eFiling: Nobles County court is saying goodbye to paper copies
WORTHINGTON -- It's a place many would like to avoid -- court. Whether it is a civil, family or criminal court matter, most would agree it is not the place you want to be. However, the Minnesota Judicial Branch is striving to make one aspect of t...
WORTHINGTON - It’s a place many would like to avoid - court. Whether it is a civil, family or criminal court matter, most would agree it is not the place you want to be. However, the Minnesota Judicial Branch is striving to make one aspect of the experience smoother for legal counsel and their clients alike through eFiling.
By the end of the year, court users will be able to electronically file and serve documents in all 87 Minnesota district courts. Currently, eFiling and eService is available in 11 counties across the state: Cass, Clay, Cook, Dakota, Faribault, Hennepin, Kandiyohi, Lake, Morrison, Ramsey and Washington.
These counties were part of a multi-year pilot project aimed at testing and refining the eFiling process and related policies. Based on the success of that pilot, electronic filing and service became mandatory for attorneys, government agencies, guardians ad litem and sheriffs filing documents in those 11 pilot counties July 1.
For the remainder of the year, the Minnesota Judicial Branch will begin rolling out the program to allow filers in the other 76 counties across the state to begin using the system. For southwest Minnesota’s Fifth Judicial District, filers can begin eFiling tentatively in early November.
Denise Brandel, court administrator for Nobles, Rock, Pipestone and Murray counties, said locally the program is still in the initial stages of planning, with staff beginning training on the new system next month. However, once it is in place, it should make things easier for staff and those filing.
“Ideally, when we have the process perfected and eFiling is mandatory, time savings to staff should be realized in that the eFiled documents will come to staff from attorneys and litigants in specific ‘queues’ that staff will review for acceptance. When staff accept the eFiled documents, they will automatically be saved into the appropriate court file in the court’s MNCIS system,” Brandel said.
“This will save staff time in that they will no longer need to locate the paper file and will not have to manually scan each sheet of paper/document into MNCIS and file those same documents in the paper court file. Likewise, the judge will be able to access and view the eFiled documents instantly on the bench during hearings or from chambers.
“In addition, for those attorneys who register to receive service of documents electronically, court staff will serve notices and orders electronically, eliminating the time and expense of photocopying and mailing paper copies of those documents,” Brandel added.
In addition to electronic filing and service of court documents, the eCourtMN initiative includes a wide array of projects that are utilizing new technologies to increase efficiency and expand access to information throughout Minnesota’s justice system. This includes:
- Providing judges and court staff with new electronic tools to more efficiently review and process court documents within the courthouse;
- Creating an electronic portal for government partners – such as law enforcement, prosecutors, and public defenders – to more efficiently access court documents and records;
- Making it easier and more convenient for the public to view electronic court records from across the state at their local courthouse;
- Partnering with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to expand use of electronic citations (eCitations) and other charging documents (eCharging). These tools allow law enforcement and prosecutors to file citations and complaints electronically, from their office or squad car, with the data automatically transferred to court and law enforcement databases. Use of eCharging and eCitations will become mandatory for adult complaints and adult citations statewide on July 1, 2016.
“Throughout the Judicial Branch, we are implementing an ambitious redesign agenda that is utilizing new technologies to improve our service to the public, increase information sharing and efficiency within the justice system and make it more convenient for our customers to interact with the courts,” said State Court Administrator Jeff Shorba. “The eCourtMN initiative is the centerpiece of these efforts, and we are eager to bring one of the most important elements of this transformation - eFiling and eService - to district courts across the state.” Upon implementation, eFiling and eService will be voluntary for filers in the 76 non-pilot counties, meaning filers will still be able to file documents using the traditional, paper-based method. Electronic filing and service in these counties will continue to be voluntary until July 1, 2016. Under recent amendments to Minnesota’s Rules of Court, use of the eFiling and eService system to file court documents will become mandatory for attorneys, government agencies, guardians ad litem and sheriffs in all district courts statewide on July 1, 2016. Use of the eFiling and eService system will remain voluntary for other filers, such as self-represented litigants.
“Since we’re still learning about the process locally, we cannot yet fully appreciate the time, effort and savings that this initiative will bring. However, we are looking forward to it as the courts move forward to an eventual paperless environment,” Brandel commented.