Advisory Committee Submits “Cameras in the Courtroom” Pilot Report
In an August 12, 2015, order, the Minnesota Supreme Court amended Rule 4 of the General Rules of Practice to authorize a pilot project that permitted, without the consent of the parties, limited audio and video coverage in certain criminal court proceedings. The amendment took effect on November 10, 2015.
As directed by the Supreme Court in its order, the Advisory Committee on Rules of Criminal Procedure worked with the State Court Administrator’s Office (SCAO) to monitor the pilot and, on December 20, 2017, submitted a report to the Court that summarizes the information collected, the issues the Committee discussed, and the Committee’s recommendations regarding the pilot and Rule 4 of the General Rules of Practice.
Coverage data and survey responses from November 10, 2015, through May 2017, during the pilot were collected and analyzed by the Committee for its report. During the 18-month data-collection period, there were 135 media coverage requests in 79 different cases. Coverage was granted and occurred in 49 cases during the data-collection period, and four pending coverage requests were granted after the end of the data-collection period. In total, coverage was granted in 53 cases.
As the Supreme Court considers the Advisory Committee report, the conditions of the pilot project remain in effect. The Supreme Court will accept public comments on the Advisory Committee report through March 26, 2018, and has scheduled a public hearing on the report for April 25, 2018.
Law Day Events Give Public Firsthand Look at Minnesota’s Justice System
For more than 50 years, the United States has recognized May 1 as Law Day, a national day to celebrate how law and the legal process have contributed to the freedoms that all Americans share. For Law Day 2017, the American Bar Association selected the theme of “The 14th Amendment: Transforming American Democracy,” which explores how the citizenship, due process, and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution advanced the rights of all Americans.
In honor of Law Day, courts across Minnesota partnered with local justice system partners to sponsor Law Day events for the public and students. These events were designed to showcase the work of Minnesota’s courts, and educate the public about the work of judges, attorneys, law enforcement, and citizens in administering the state’s justice system.
In St. Cloud, the public was invited to visit the Stearns County Courthouse as part of an “Open Courthouse” event on April 28. The event featured special appearances by Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea and Associate Justice Margaret H. Chutich, along with guided courthouse tours, a justice system information fair, and informational displays about Stearns County history and the 14th Amendment.
Anoka County also celebrated Law Day on April 28, with an event featuring free legal advice clinics, an information fair, and guided tours of the Anoka County Courthouse and Government Center in downtown Anoka.
In Buffalo, local justice system partners offered free legal advice clinics and presentations on emerging criminal justice issues for members of the public at the Wright County Government Center on May 1.
Dakota County Marks Constitution Day with “Open Courthouse” Event
On Friday, September 15, the Dakota County Judicial Center in Hastings opened its doors to the public as part of a Constitution Day “Open Courthouse” event.
During the successful event, nearly 250 visitors took behind-the-scenes tours of the courthouse, heard presentations from judges and local justice system officials, received free legal assistance through the Mobile Law Network, and attended an information fair designed to highlight justice system programs and services available in the community. The event began with a welcoming presentation featuring local judges, county commissioners, and two justices from the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Visits Wayzata, Alexandria High Schools
Each spring and fall, the Minnesota Supreme Court travels to a high school in the state to hear oral arguments and meet with students and staff.
The program begins with arguments in a real case, followed by a question and answer session with students, lunch with students and school staff, and visits to classrooms.
There are also opportunities for the members of the Court to meet with local officials and dignitaries. During the fall visit, the Court hosts a community dinner in order to reach out to citizens in the community they are visiting.
In May 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments at Wayzata High School in Plymouth in front of more than 1,000 students. In October 2017, the Supreme Court traveled to Alexandria to hold their annual community dinner and hear oral arguments at Alexandria Area High School.
The dinner was attended by nearly 200 community members, and more than 900 students viewed the oral arguments in the High School auditorium.
Committee for Equality and Justice Works to Build Public’s Trust and Confidence in Minnesota’s Courts
The Committee for Equality for Justice (CEJ) was established by the Minnesota Judicial Council in 2010 to work collaboratively across the Judicial Branch to advance efforts to eliminate bias from court operations, promote equal access to the court, and inspire a high level of trust and public confidence in Minnesota’s courts.
Membership of the CEJ is reflective of the state’s geographic and demographic diversity. It is comprised of 26 individuals who are justice system partners, attorneys, court employees, judges, and members of the public.
The CEJ produces an annual report highlighting its efforts to fulfill its mission. The statewide CEJ works closely with equal justice committees that have been established in each of Minnesota’s 10 judicial districts. These committees engage in a variety of activities aimed at engaging community members and local organizations, and learning how the community views the fairness of Minnesota’s court system.
In an effort to connect judges and court staff with the people in their local communities, and to give the public an opportunity to share their experiences and input with the court, the equal justice committees routinely hold community dialogue sessions. In 2017, there were seven community dialogue sessions held across Minnesota, including two events in Apple Valley (First Judicial District), and events in Fridley (Tenth Judicial District), Mahnomen (Ninth Judicial District), St. Paul (Second Judicial District), Willmar (Eighth Judicial District), and Worthington (Fifth Judicial District). Several hundred Minnesotans attended the events across the state.
Judges, Justices Participate in 15th Annual Court Cookout at Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul
Judges of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and staff from the Minnesota Judicial Branch served lunch at the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul on May 26, 2017. The annual barbecue is a long-standing tradition, and just one part of the Courts’ continuing commitment to community outreach. Judges, justices, and staff of the appellate courts have served more than 8,000 meals to those in need in the 15 years of this event.
Supreme Court Returns to Historic State Capitol Chambers
On January 3, 2017, the Minnesota Supreme Court convened in the Minnesota State Capitol for the first time in nearly three years, following the completion of the historic renovation of the state’s century-old Capitol building. The January 3 oral arguments were also the first official government proceedings held in the State Capitol since May 2016, when the building was closed to the public to allow for completion of the renovation.
The Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in the State Capitol since the building opened in 1903. During the renovation, the Court heard oral arguments almost exclusively in the Minnesota Judicial Center (with the exception of special events at Minnesota law schools and high schools). With the reopening of the State Capitol, the Supreme Court returns to alternating between hearing oral arguments in the State Capitol and the Judicial Center.
To celebrate the reopening of the historic Capitol Courtroom, the Minnesota Supreme Court and Minnesota Judicial Council hosted a “Grand Reopening” open house for state legislators and executive branch officials in February 2017. The event gave legislators the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Courtroom, the robing room used by justices before and after oral arguments, the conference room where the Supreme Court decides cases, and the historic Chief Justice’s Capitol chambers. Members of the Supreme Court and the Minnesota Judicial Council spoke with legislators about the work of the courts and Minnesota’s justice system.
Capitol Grand Reopening Celebration
Thousands of Minnesotans traveled to St. Paul in August 2017 to take part in the Minnesota State Capitol Grand Opening Celebration. Visitors to the event had the opportunity to learn about Minnesota’s court system from members of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and judges and court staff from across the state.
As part of the three-day event, held August 11-13, current and former members of the Minnesota Supreme Court, along with members of the Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society, greeted Capitol tour groups as they visited the renovated Supreme Court Capitol Courtroom. In the Courtroom, visitors learned about the state’s highest court and how the Capitol renovations enhanced access to the historic Courtroom.
In addition, judges and court staff from across Minnesota greeted Minnesotans at the Minnesota Judicial Branch information booth, which was part of an information fair. At the booth, judges and staff from the Court of Appeals and Minnesota’s district courts were on hand to answer questions about the state’s justice system, and share materials about Minnesota’s courts and self-help legal resources available to Minnesotans.
As a member of the Minnesota State Capitol Preservation Commission, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea had special responsibilities during the weekend, including serving ice cream at the Capitol Workers' Appreciation Ice Cream Social and Celebration on the evening of Sunday, August 13.
State Law Library Exhibit Explores the “Asian Pacific Legal Experience in America”
In early April 2017, members of the public were invited to the Minnesota State Law Library in St. Paul to view a traveling exhibit detailing the legal history of Asian Pacific peoples in the United States through three pivotal events: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Japanese American Incarceration during WWII, and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. The exhibit, “Asian Pacific Legal Experience in America,” was available for free, self-guided tours in the Library from April 3 through April 14.
During the exhibition, the Minnesota State Law Library also hosted a special screening of the PBS film, “Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story,” on April 4. The 2001 documentary details the 40-year legal fight to vindicate Fred Korematsu, a civil rights activist who resisted the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The screening was introduced by United States Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung. Judge Leung became the first Asian Pacific American judge in Minnesota when he was appointed to the Hennepin County District Court bench in 1994, and subsequently became the first Asian Pacific American to serve on the federal bench in the state upon his appointment in 2011.
Chief Justice Speaks at Public Forum in Brainerd
Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea spoke at a public forum at the Chalberg Theater on the Central Lakes College campus in Brainerd on the evening of April 25, 2017.
Chief Justice Gildea’s presentation focused on the work of Minnesota’s justice system, the important role the courts play in preserving the rights and freedoms of citizens, and the critical need for an independent and impartial judiciary. Following her presentation, the Chief Justice held a question-and-answer session with forum attendees.
The forum – “An Evening with the Chief Justice” – was sponsored by the Gordon Rosenmeier Center for State and Local Government. The Rosenmeier Center is a non-partisan organization that strives to educate and encourage participation of citizens in effective government and the political process.
New Dashboards Expand Access to Court Data
In an effort to increase access to public information about the state’s court system, the Minnesota Judicial Branch launched a new data dashboard tool in 2017 on its website. The data can be filtered by case type, district court, judicial district, and year.
Stillwater Event Celebrates Minnesota’s Oldest Standing Courthouse
Dozens of people visited the historic Washington County Courthouse in downtown Stillwater on June 2, 2017, to take part in a Law Day event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the oldest standing courthouse in Minnesota. As part of the event, Washington County District Court Judge Gregory G. Galler presided over a calendar of 13 civil and criminal cases, the first time a full calendar of cases had been heard in the historic courthouse in over 40 years.
Before the day’s court proceedings began, Washington County Commissioner Gary Kriesel gave a presentation on the history of the historic Washington County Courthouse, which was constructed in the late 1860s and held much of Washington County government until the opening of the existing Washington County Government Center in 1975.
The Law Day events were put on through a partnership between Washington County and the judges and staff of Washington County District Court and Minnesota’s Tenth Judicial District.
Judicial Branch Launches Enhanced Cyber Security Program
As Minnesota’s justice system continues to leverage new technologies to increase efficiency and effectiveness, the Minnesota Judicial Branch has been working to better protect the electronic tools and information Minnesotans rely on to interact with their court system.
During the 2017 Legislative Session, the Judicial Branch secured new funding to launch an enhanced cyber security program aimed at preventing major system outages and securing the private information stored by the court system. As part of its biennial strategic plan, the Judicial Branch worked throughout the year to use this new funding to mitigate the risk of major data breaches, data corruption, data loss, and cyberattacks.