Some Minnesota criminal defense attorneys say state court system ‘unfair’ during COVID-19 restrictions
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A group of private Minnesota criminal defense attorneys asked the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court to allow them to have the same remote access to computer court files as prosecutors and judges, but the group’s request was denied.
Chuck Ramsay, of Ramsay Law Firm, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the group of defense attorneys is considering a federal lawsuit claiming their defendants’ constitutional rights of due process and fair legal counsel are being violated.
"It is a huge disadvantage to not have equal, remote computer access to court files," said Ramsay. "It is not a fair fight and it’s like the government has its thumb on the scale."
Ramsay said prosecutors and judges have remote computer access since COVID-19 restrictions essentially shut down the state court system, but private criminal defense attorneys have to rely on notifications and hyperlinks to gain the same access.
"And if we don’t get those notifications, if we don’t get those hyperlinks or we just miss them, we have no other options," Ramsay said. "When the courthouse was open, we could go down there and do it, but now we cannot and now we cannot remotely access it by computer."
Hamline University law professor David Schultz told KSTP the current situation in the state court system is "grossly unfair" and clearly raises serious constitutional questions.
"So maybe we have people who’ve been arrested, maybe they’re sitting in jail waiting for arraignment and their defense attorneys are being told, ‘Hey, cool your heels and wait,’" Schultz said. "Well this is affecting people’s lives and denying them due process and fair counsel if their attorneys cannot gain access to their court files in a timely manner."
KSTP reached out to the Minnesota Supreme Court through the State Court Administrator’s Office but has not yet heard back.