The Potluck

Online fee for court documents postponed after lawmakers fail to act

By: - August 18, 2022 9:29 am

The Minnesota judicial branch has postponed plans to start charging hefty fees for court documents.

The judicial branch launched online access to district court case records in March 2021, and millions of documents have been downloaded for free since then. 

The judiciary had planned to begin charging $8 per document for anything beyond the first page obtained through Minnesota Court Records Online — the same fee charged at courthouses. By comparison, federal courts charge 10 cents per page for online court documents.

Reporters, lawyers and the public rely on the service to get information about everything from civil lawsuits to criminal cases. Journalists lobbied against the fees because they routinely use court records to tell stories.

Last session, there was bipartisan support for blocking the judiciary from implementing the fees. Both the House and Senate had bills eliminating the fees, but the Legislature adjourned without taking action on the big funding bills, including the one with this provision.

The State Court Administrator’s Office initially waited to see whether a special session would be called in which the issue might be addressed, but that didn’t happen. Kyle Christopherson, a spokesman, says the judiciary has put the fee on hold until the Legislature takes action. 

Given the bipartisan support for blocking the fees, the judiciary is suspending the fees to give lawmakers more time to address the issue next year, State Court Administrator Jeff Shorba said in a statement.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.