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Jeff Shorba, Dawn Torgerson, AnneMarie O’Neill and Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea
Those who helped keep Minnesota’s legal process running in 2020 include, pictured from left: Jeff Shorba, Dawn Torgerson, AnneMarie O’Neill and Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea

Outstanding Service to the Profession: Jeff Shorba, Dawn Torgerson, AnneMarie O’Neill and Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea

Much of the legal process revolves around face-to-face meetings, whether in an office, chambers or courtroom. As with so many others, that custom was put on hold in 2020, but a team of court staff made sure the system would keep going remotely.

State Court Administrator Jeff Shorba, Deputy State Court Administrator Dawn Torgerson, and the Clerk of Appellate Court AnneMarie O’Neill led a charge to set up district and appellate courts to work and hold hearings remotely.

“Our best motivator was to keep our work going, and the best way to do that was to expand our remote hearing capacity,” said Shorba. “We had to build up the technology, build up the training, make sure everyone had the right equipment and set up home work environments. I think we’re close to the leading edge when it comes to what can be done remotely.”

Shorba, Torgerson and O’Neill worked closely with the National Center for State Courts in developing a remote-work system. That group had helped set up national groups that studied how best to set up remote hearings — as well as what types of cases could be handled remotely.

Like many employers, Minnesota’s court system is pondering how the adjustments to remote work might be made permanent.

“We’ve learned that it creates some positive outcomes, and we’re already thinking about how what we’ve built can continue to be used when we get back to whatever normal turns out to be,” said Shorba.

Some of the judges and court staff are convinced that for certain cases, it could make sense to have them conducted remotely.

And for people who use the courts, remote proceedings could prove to be a real boon.

“For our customers, it can mean avoiding having to take time off, come downtown and pay for parking,” said Shorba.

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2020 here.

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