Minnesota county attorneys ask courts to address hurdles in accessing case information

All but 12 county attorneys in Minnesota recently joined Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty in asking court officials to address recent issues accessing court data in a timely manner.

On Nov. 9, Moriarty and 74 other county attorneys sent a letter to officials with the Minnesota State Court Administration, the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals, stating that since retiring the old court data system used by county attorneys, the new system has not been adequate.

The platform previously used by county attorneys, known as Odyssey, allowed officials to access most court information at one time, in one place, according to the letter.

Now, since the dismissal of the platform statewide, county attorneys have been relying on three platforms in conjunction to complete their work.

In the letter, Moriarty raised three main concerns on behalf of county attorneys, which included issues with identifying a person’s history, next hearing dates and warrants.

In regard to person history, Moriarty stated that the Odyssey platform allowed officials to view the complete criminal history of a person, whereas now county attorneys must skim through a list of names to find them, which can not only be tedious but cause prosecutors to miss prior convictions.

Additionally, the letter says that sometimes a person may appear multiple times in the list due to potential spelling errors or data entry errors. This can be misleading for prosecutors, who may not be aware of a person’s criminal history while assessing a case.

A separate issue with the new system concerns next hearing dates, according to Moriarty. While the Odyssey platform displayed upcoming hearing dates for each person, the new system does not. Instead, prosecutors have seen times where hearing notices don’t appear because they aren’t uploaded to the new system, and attorneys sometimes have to navigate back and forth between two separate platforms because one may show hearing dates but not case information.

The last concern raised in the letter is a lack of transparency with warrants. While two of the new platforms give the user a “flag” if they have a warrant, there is no option for prosecutors to find which case the warrant is on and sometimes the flag is out of date.

“This issue is particularly troublesome for large-volume calendars. In these situations, the current reality makes it nearly impossible to make reasonable requests based on actual circumstances,” the letter says.

The county attorneys are asking court officials to “at a minimum” provide them with access to a courthouse version of one of the new platforms, which was requested previously and denied in Hennepin County “with the rationale that this access is available at a public terminal in the courthouse,” said Moriarty, to which she claims such a workaround is not reasonable.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has reached out to the Minnesota State Court Administration, the Minnesota Supreme Court, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals for a statement and will update this story if one is received.