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Chief justice visits Willmar, observes innovations


WILLMAR -- New Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea was in Willmar on Thursday to observe the many innovative technologies used at the Kandiyohi County Courthouse.

Just 22 days into her tenure as chief justice, Gildea said she is inspired by the local courthouse staff's adaptation to the long list of technological advances and the staff's positive attitude.

"Kandiyohi Co-unty is doing very well" with the advances, she said. "I appreciate the positive attitude from everyone. It is really inspiring."

The county has been the test site for many new, more efficient systems like e-charging -- the electronic transfer of documents between law enforcement, prosecutors and the court system; in-court updating of court files by clerks; the use of remote hearings via interactive television; and remote language interpreting services via telephone.

Gildea observed a district court session during which a defendant made his first appearance via ITV, a remote interpreter was used to assist the defendant and clerks updated court files instantaneously during the hearing. She also met with court officials, the local judges and other key players in the legal process.

She also visited the new central payable center, which processes court payments for the entire state, on the third floor of the courthouse. The center is ramping up to handle court fine payments from 85 of the state's 87 counties. Eventually, it is expected to add the payments from Hennepin and Ramsey counties, which currently use computer systems unique to those counties.

The new chief justice has already been meeting with legislators regarding adequate funding for the judicial branch, which has left 250 positions open and left open judgeships vacant longer to save money.

"We must adequately fund our judiciary," she said. "Justice is not an option in Minnesota."

Gildea wants to visit all 10 of the state's judicial districts in the coming weeks and months, to meet the local staff, judges and officials.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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