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Kandiyohi Co. District Court moves ahead with e-initiative

WILLMAR — On Feb. 26, the Kandiyohi County District Court will begin offering attorneys and other agencies involved in the legal system the ability to electronically file and serve court documents.

The eFile and eService advancements are part of the Minnesota judicial branch’s larger eCourtMN initiative to move the court system from paper files to electronic information, according to Tim Ostby, district administrator for the state’s Seventh and Eighth Judicial Districts, which include 21 counties in central and west central Minnesota.

The eFile and eService portions of the system are most likely to be used by the attorneys, just as the eCharging portion is already used by county and city prosecutors and eCitations are used by law enforcement officers, Ostby said during a recent training session at the Willmar courthouse.

The vision is that the court system will operate in an electronic environment, reduce the paper and provide more access to those who work in or are served by the court system.

“It’s a 24/7 operation now,” Ostby said, with parties to a case allowed to file paperwork beyond the regular business hours and court files available to multiple viewers at one time.

Ostby has served on the state eCourt steering committee for more than a year. The electronic initiative began with Hennepin and Ramsey counties and then moved into nine additional pilot counties: Cass, Clay, Cook, Dakota, Faribault, Lake, Morrison and Washington.

While the other pilot counties have launched their electronic filing by starting with only civil cases and then later adding criminal and other types of cases, Ostby said, Kandiyohi County will be the first county to launch into e-filing on all types of cases on the same date.

The advancements will also change how the public views court information, and will move the files from paper to electronic documents, available for viewing online instead of on paper.

Court administration staff began imaging, or creating electronic, documents on Jan. 14, according to Debra Mueske, court administrator for Kandiyohi, Meeker and Swift counties.

One of the key issues is the classification status given documents, which are either public or confidential data, as the paperwork is processed by the administrative staff.

Those classifications determine what documents the public can see via the online public access to the Minnesota Court Information System. After Feb. 26, citizens will be able to view documents from current court cases via the public access computers at the local courthouse.  

Currently, some basic information about a court case is available online via the Minnesota Court Information System, but users cannot view the information contained in the documents in court files.

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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