Going to court? There’s a text to help you remember

Published 5:51 am Friday, October 18, 2019

By Jon Collins

MPR News/90.1

People involved in most court cases in Minnesota will now be able to sign up for text or email reminders for upcoming court appearances. A pilot version of the program in Hennepin County showed an increase in the rate at which people showed up to court hearings and a reduction in the number of people arrested for missing court dates.

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The “eReminder” program launched statewide this week covers adult criminal, family and eviction cases. Reminders are also available for juvenile cases that don’t involve felonies.

The reminders aren’t going to replace official court notices of hearings, said Jeff Shorba, state court administrator for the Minnesota Judicial Branch. But the eReminders will typically go out out three days and one day before a scheduled hearing to help people remember the dates.

“We generally see people coming to court on some of the worst days of their lives with things unresolved,” Shorba said. “Anything we can do to try to get them in, and resolve the issue one way or another with some certainty, is certainly a positive thing.”

Shorba said the program cost about $300,000 to roll out statewide, but that it will likely save public money that would have been spent on additional court dates and arresting people who miss hearings.

The expansion of the “eReminder” program statewide comes after an 18-month pilot in Hennepin County. The pilot program showed a 25 percent decline in the number of bench warrants issued for arrests during that period, according to data from the courts. And people who received the eReminders were 35 percent more likely to show up to their scheduled court hearings.

“Hearing eReminders have been shown to improve hearing attendance and reduce the number of bench warrants for failures to appear,” Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said in a statement. “The statewide launch of hearing eReminders is another example of a successful Minnesota Judicial Branch pilot project proving effective for Minnesotans and being improved and expanded to the full state.”

People can sign up for court date reminders at the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s website.