The Minnesota Court system has been working since 2015 to provide the public access to public court documents online. Instead of going to a courthouse or completing a document request form and providing it to court staff, you can now search by case number and read district court documents filed after July 1, 2015, from home sipping a cup of coffee while in your pajamas, at work during a lunch break, and anywhere in the world at any time of the day or night.
Not all documents, such as bank records, are for the public to read and will remain confidential. However, this never before access to information allows anyone to read almost any court document – your new significant other’s divorce Decree to see what sort of assets and debts he received in the divorce two years ago, you heard your neighbor next door is fighting for custody of his children and you want to read his legal documents to know what is happening in his case or you are dating someone new and want to see and read his or her criminal record.
The Minnesota court system has been working on this project since 2015. It originally contracted with a vendor to develop an online access program. When the vendor was unable to develop a program that was workable and able to keep certain information confidential, the Minnesota court system in early 2020 chose to develop its own system. The decision to move forward with the internal development of the access system was made in spring 2020.
The information now online is the first of a three-phase process. The second phase will allow access to the Registers of Actions, which is a summary of the history of a court case that includes dates a court hearing was held and the documents the parties filed in the case. This second phase will then incorporate searches by a party or attorney’s name. The final stage will involve the user being able to complete more advanced information searches. Eventually, users will be charged a fee to obtain copies of court documents. For now, documents can be accessed for free.
Accessing online documents is quite easy:
- Log onto www.mncourts.gov/Access-Case-Records.aspx
- Click on the link for “Minnesota Court Records Online (MCRO)”
- Once you read the page with information about this new system, page down and click on “Access MCRO”
- Click on the “Document Search tab” on the top left corner of the webpage.
So simple. Phase one of this new access to information opens the door to so many possibilities. As an attorney, this new system continues to allow us access to court documents in a much faster way. Most court documents have always been public; you would have to go to a courthouse to research and to order copies of what court documents you wanted to read and keep. But now, the general public has never had this full online access to research and print information – and to snoop on friends, family, significant others, and the general public.
If you have any questions about this or need legal advice, complete this consultation form to talk to Jessica Sterle. She can help you navigate Minnesota law.