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Bar Buzz: Judicial Branch rolls out hearing ‘eReminders’

Got a client who tends to be a little, let’s say, informal when it comes to remembering court dates? The Minnesota Judicial Branch might have just the thing to help.

On the heels of a successful 18-month pilot project, the Branch on Oct. 14 unveiled optional “eReminders,” designed to remind parties of their upcoming court dates.

Receivable by text message and email, the District Court notifications are available for juvenile delinquency, traffic, petty offense and protection cases; adult criminal and traffic cases; domestic abuse cases; family law cases; and evictions.

Instructions for enrolling and information on eligible case types are online at the Branch’s web portal, mncourts.gov/Hearing-eReminders.

In most cases, the Branch says, two reminders will get sent out. One will be transmitted three days before a hearing and the other on the day before.

The exceptions are for evictions, where a single reminder will get sent just one day before a hearing, and for adoptions, where just one reminder goes out three days in advance.

The notifications are considered a courtesy and do not replace an official notice to appear, the Branch says.

According to a Branch press release, an 18-month eReminders pilot in Hennepin County showed a big decrease—25 percent—in bench warrants issued for failures to appear. During the same July 2017 to January 2019 period, the Branch calculates, parties who received e-notifications were 35% more likely to show up for court.

“The statewide launch of hearing eReminders is another example of a successful Minnesota Judicial Branch pilot project proving effective for Minnesotans and being improved and expanded to the full state,” state Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said in the Branch’s Oct. 14 press release.

To qualify for the eReminders program, you must be a party in the case. “Witnesses, victims, attorneys, etc., are not parties in a case and are not eligible for eReminders,” the Branch says on its portal.

Oh, and failure to receive an alert is no excuse not to show up for court, the Branch makes clear. So you might want to pass that on to that disorganized client of yours, too.

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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