Minnesota’s Judicial Branch has rolled out an “eReminder” program statewide that sends texts and emails to remind people for most court case dates if they choose.
An 18-month pilot program in Hennepin County showed a 25 percent decline in the number of bench warrants issued for arrests during that period, according to court data.
Alyssa Siems Roberson, director of communications and public affairs for the Minnesota Judicial Branch, told The Center Square that people who miss court dates are a significant cost.
That often means there’s a warrant issued, which drags the cases’ resolution, Roberson said.
“That slows the system down, but also brings the person into a lot of personal costs,” Roberson said. “So if we could be doing some simple things to encourage them to remember hearings, we’re glad to be able to do that with this system.”
Once someone gets a case number, that person can enter it into the Minnesota Judicial website and then opt-in to text and or email reminders that will generally be sent three days before and one day before any hearings.
The “eReminder” program is available for adult criminal, family and eviction cases, and juvenile delinquency, traffic and juvenile protection cases.
The reminders won’t replace official court notices of hearings.
Roberson said the program cost about $300,000 to roll out statewide, but the program should save money in the long run because the government will have to issue fewer bench warrants and reschedule fewer court dates.
“It means that we’re not increasing costs and the time by which it takes for cases to be resolved,” Roberson said. “There is some trauma that goes along when someone is issued a bench warrant,” adding that people who miss court dates often have to be served, taken into custody, and potentially held in jail until the warrant is resolved.
People who have attorneys in cases often have more people aware of their court case versus some self-represented litigants, Roberson said, adding that warrants can discourage people from showing up to court.
“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.”
Roberson said New York’s court system rolled out a similar program in 2016.