Hennepin County MN District Court eReminder System Cuts Failures to Appear

Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District, serving Hennepin County (Minneapolis and the surrounding 46 suburbs) has recently developed an eReminder pilot with a private vendor. As the name reflects, this is an electronic reminder application which pulls information from the court’s information database (a tailored Tyler Technologies Odyssey® case management system) to issue the reminders. No additional work is needed by court staff to send the reminder.

This reminder project sends texts and emails to defendants who opt-in to receive a notice of their hearing prior to the specific date, said Marcy R. Podkopacz, the court’s Director of Research and Business Practices. Most of the judicial divisions using this approach send two reminders per hearing, one three days before and the second a day before the appearance date. The pilot has been fully functional since the summer 2017. As of January 2018, the court has sent nearly 20,000 reminders per month to litigants scheduled to appear at a hearing or court event.

In the Criminal and Traffic courts, bench warrants for failures to appear (FTAs) were reduced by 24% between June 2017 and January 2018 (and the court has had an increase in filings during that same time period). When the court has been able to successfully remind defendants to come to their court appearance, FTAs have been reduced by 30 percent. The court’s success in reaching defendants is higher for texts than emails, but for both types of reminders it is the absence of contact information that is the biggest reason for an unsuccessful reminder. Ensuring courtroom clerks ask defendants at every appearance if they have any new contact information (primarily a cell phone number or an email address), and recording that data into the court’s information system has been the biggest change and challenge for us, Dr. Podkopacz mentioned. “We were, of course, asking about a defendant’s address, but now that we are in the electronic world, we need to ask for and capture different methods of contact,” she said.

For more information, Dr. Podkopacz, PhD., can be reached at 612-348-6812. Her email address is . Both the Fourth Judicial District’s Court’s Chief Judge, the Hon. Ivy Bernhardson, and Judicial District Administrator Sarah Lindahl-Pfieffer, are NPCO Board Members. Chief Judge Bernhardson is also NAPCO’s President-Elect. Minneapolis will be the site of NAPCO’s Fourth Annual Leadership Conference in the fall of 2019.