With a trial period nearing its end, Minnesotans may soon need to pay $8 again if they want to view and download records from the state’s new online court records system.
The new Minnesota Court Records Online system is designed to facilitate public access to court records. Featuring a modern interface and increased usability, MRCO was rolled out in three phases, starting last year.
Initially, users needed a file number to find documents relevant to a file. Now they can search for documents using the names of parties and attorneys. Other advanced search functions are available, including access to share registers and calendar and judgment searches.
During the rollout, access to the older, more limited online court records system, MPA Remote, remained in place. In addition, the public is still encouraged to access court records at the local court administration office or the state law library in St. Paul.
Kyle Christopherson, communications specialist at the Minnesota Judicial Branch Office of Court Information, said traffic to the new website has been robust, although the completion process is ongoing, with the final phase still underway. of development.
According to Christopherson, about 10,000 documents were downloaded from the site, significantly reducing the number of information requests he and other Minnesota judiciary staff had to deal with.
When the interface is fully completed, state law dictates that the court shall begin charging the $8 per document fee, which is the fee that local court administrative offices and the Law Library of State have long charged for paper printouts of documents.
Nicollet County Court Administrator Carol Weikle said she has heard from county justice partners that the new system has made it easier to access needed documents. She doesn’t believe fees, which have long been in place for paper printouts of court records, have proven to be a significant barrier to access.
Weikle pointed out that, if cost is an issue, users can file a request for the fee waiver. In addition, the consultation of judicial acts on the official display terminals of the courts has always been and will remain free.
However, a bipartisan group of Minnesota lawmakers opposed charging fees for online downloads. At a Minnesota House Civil Law and Judicial Finance Committee hearing, several lawmakers said they thought the fees didn’t make much sense.
“I get billed for in-person fees when staff time is used and copy fees are used,” said Rep. Kristin Robbins, R-Maple Grove. “But online access should be free, especially when the money goes to the general fund, instead of going to the courts.”
Robbins introduced a bill, HF3041, to prevent state courts from charging fees on online downloads. Under the bill, local court administrative offices and the state law library could still charge for paper printouts.
Robbins’ bill garnered a bipartisan list of co-sponsors, including local reps Brian Pfarr, R-Le Sueur and Brian Daniels, R-Faribault. Pfarr, the only local lawmaker on the House Judiciary, Civil Law and Finance Committee, said he opposes the charges on principle.
“If it’s as easy as going online, there shouldn’t be a charge to find that information,” he said.