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MINNESOTA COURT RULES

RECORD ACCESS

Rule 4.Accessibility to Case Records

Subdivision 1.Accessibility.

All case records are accessible to the public except the following:

(a)Domestic Abuse Records.

Records maintained by a court administrator in accordance with the domestic abuse act, Minnesota Statutes, section 518B.01, until a court order as authorized by subdivision 5 or 7 of section 518B.01 is executed or served upon the record subject who is the respondent to the action.

(b)Court Services Records.

Records on individuals maintained by a court, other than records that have been admitted into evidence, that are gathered at the request of a court to:

(1) determine an individual's need for counseling, rehabilitation, treatment or assistance with personal conflicts,

(2) assist in assigning an appropriate sentence or other disposition in a case,

(3) provide the court with a recommendation regarding the custody of minor children, or

(4) provide the court with a psychological evaluation of an individual.

Provided, however, that the following information on adult individuals is accessible to the public: name, age, sex, occupation, and the fact that an individual is a parolee, probationer, or participant in a diversion program, and if so, at what location; the offense for which the individual was placed under supervision; the dates supervision began and ended and the duration of supervision; information which was public in a court or other agency which originated the data; arrest and detention orders; orders for parole, probation or participation in a diversion program and the extent to which those conditions have been or are being met; identities of agencies, units within agencies and individuals providing supervision; and the legal basis for any change in supervision and the date, time and locations associated with the change.

(c)Judicial Work Product and Drafts.

All notes and memoranda or drafts thereof prepared by a judge or by a court employed attorney, law clerk, legal assistant or secretary and used in the process of preparing a final decision or order, except the official minutes prepared in accordance with Minnesota Statutes, sections 546.24 and 546.25.

(d)Juvenile Appeal Cases.

Case records arising from an appeal from juvenile court proceedings that are not open to the public, except the appellate court's written opinion or unless otherwise provided by rule or order of the appellate court.

(e)Race Records.

The contents of completed race census forms obtained from participants in criminal, traffic, juvenile and other matters, and the contents of race data fields in any judicial branch computerized information system, except that:

(1) the records may be disclosed in bulk format if the recipient of the records:

(A) executes a nondisclosure agreement in a form approved by the state court administrator in which the recipient of the records agrees not to disclose to any third party any information in the records from which either the identity of any participant or other characteristic that could uniquely identify any participant is ascertainable; and

(B) obtains an order from the Supreme Court authorizing the disclosure;

(2) A juror's race may be disclosed to the parties or their attorneys as part of the juror profile information unless otherwise provided by law or court rule.

Nothing in this section (e) shall prevent public access to source documents such as complaints or petitions that are otherwise accessible to the public.

(f)Genetic Information.

Records on genetic information, other than records that have been admitted into evidence in a hearing or trial, that are from medical or scientific professionals, including but not limited to reports and affidavits. For purposes of this rule, "genetic information" means information about a specific human being that is derived from the presence, absence, alteration, or mutation of a gene or genes, or the presence or absence of a specific deoxyribonucleic acid or ribonucleic acid marker or markers, and which has been obtained from an analysis of an individual's biological information or specimen or the biological information or specimen of a person to whom an individual is genetically related.

(g)Other.

Case records that are made inaccessible to the public under:

(1) state statutes, other than Minnesota Statutes, chapter 13;

(2) court rules or orders; or

(3) other applicable law.

The state court administrator shall maintain, publish and periodically update a partial list of case records that are not accessible to the public.

Subd. 2.Restricting Access; Procedure.

Procedures for restricting access to case records shall be as provided in the applicable court rules.

Subd. 3.Access to Recordings.

This subdivision governs access to recordings of proceedings in the district court:

(a)General.

Recordings of proceedings in the district court, including without limitation those used as a back-up to a stenographically recorded proceeding or as the electronic recording, are intended to assist in the preparation of a transcript. The transcript, and not the recording, is the official record of the proceedings. Recordings of proceedings in the district court may only be used as authorized in this or other applicable rules or orders promulgated by the Supreme Court.

(b)Off the Record Remarks.

Any spoken words in the courtroom that are not a part of a proceeding, hearing or trial of a specific case are not intended to be recorded. Recordings of such words may not be listened to or used in any way other than by authorized operators of the recording equipment to orient themselves on recording content.

(c)Playback.

Playback of any part of the recording of a proceeding, hearing, or trial of a specific case is authorized in only the following situations:

(1) during the proceeding, hearing or trial at the direction of the court;

(2) by authorized operators of the recording equipment or an official court reporter or other authorized reporting service employee for the purpose of creating a transcript as the official record; and

(3) at the direction of the court for the use of the court.

(d)Disseminate by Transcript Only.

Except as provided in part (c) of this rule, the contents of the recording shall be disseminated by transcript only, which transcript, and not the recording, shall be the official record.

(e)No Transcripts in Conciliation Court.

Nothing in this rule shall permit the transcription of conciliation court proceedings, hearings or trials. Playback of any part of the recordings of conciliation court proceeding, hearing or trial is authorized only at the direction of the court for the use of the court.

(Amended effective July 1, 2005; amended effective July 1, 2007; amended effective March 1, 2008.)

Advisory Committee Comment - 2005

The 2005 deletion of the word "temporary" in Rule 4, subd. 1(a), reflects statutory changes that allow the initial, ex parte order to be the permanent order of the court if no hearing is requested. See Minnesota Laws 1995, chapter 142, sections 4, 5 (amending Minnesota Statutes, section 518B.01, subds. 5, 7).

The 2005 reorganization of Rule 4, subd. 1, parts (d) and (f) is not substantive in nature. Trial level juvenile court proceedings that are not accessible to the public include adoption (Minnesota Statutes 2004, section 259.61; MINN. R. ADOPTION P. 8.01 (effective 1-1-2005), delinquency and extended jurisdiction juveniles (except where there are felony level charges and the juvenile was at least 16 years old at the time of the offense) (Minnesota Statutes 2004, section 260B.163, subd. 1(c); MINN. R. JUV. DEL. P. 2.01), and other proceedings closed to the public by order of the court on a case-by-case basis (see, e.g., MINN. R. JUV. PROT. P. 27.01 (permitting closure of child protection proceeding only in exceptional circumstances, and requiring public access to closure order)). If a trial level juvenile court proceeding is not accessible to the public, then Rule 4, subd. 1(d) precludes public access to the appellate records related to that proceeding except the written opinion of the appellate court or unless otherwise ordered by the court.

The 2005 addition of race records in Rule 4, subd. 1(e) is based on the understanding that race and ethnicity information is not solicited from participants for the purpose of reselling race status of individuals to commercial enterprises. The goal is to ensure fair resolution of cases, and the rule attempts to provide a limited right of public access consistent with that goal. Access to race records, e.g., for research purposes, can be obtained under a nondisclosure agreement that limits ultimate public disclosure to aggregate statistics that do not identify individual participants. The Supreme Court has a longstanding tradition of authorizing disclosure of juvenile court records for scholarly research using nondisclosure agreements. See, e.g., Order Authorizing Disclosure of Juvenile Court Database for Research Purposes, No. C4-85-1848 (Minn. S. Ct. filed May 14, 2001).

The substitution of a periodically updated list of inaccessible case records for the former Appendix B in Rule 4, subd. 1(f) recognizes that the state court administrator maintains an updated list of statutes (and court rules and other legal authority) that identify case records that are not accessible to the public. The list is updated as necessary, whereas the former Appendix B quickly became obsolete soon after it was first published. It is contemplated that the list will be posted on the main state court website (www.courts.state.mn.us) for access by the general public.

The 2005 changes to Rule 4, subd. 2, recognize that a number of rules address restrictive orders. The factors to consider in seeking a protective order in regard to criminal case records are discussed in Minn. R. Crim. P. 25, Minneapolis Star & Tribune v. Kammeyer, 341 N.W.2d 550 (Minn. 1983), and Northwest Publications, Inc. v. Anderson, 259 N.W.2d 254 (Minn. 1977). For civil cases, see Minn. R. Civ. P. 26.03 and Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Schumacher, 392 N.W.2d 197 (Minn. 1986). For child in need of protective services cases, see Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 8.07. For juvenile delinquency cases, see Minn. R. Juv. Del. P. 10.06 subd 5.

Advisory Committee Comment - 2007

The 2007 addition of Rule 4, subd. 1(f), is designed to provide some privacy protection for genetic information about individuals. The definition of "genetic information" is based in part on the privacy law governing executive branch genetic information. Act of June 1, 2006, chapter 253, section 4, Minnesota Laws 2006 424, 426 (codified at Minnesota Statutes 2006, section 13.386). Genetic information can affect not only a party, witness or victim, but also his or her genetic relatives. Courts and parties need to consider the scope of this information when admitting and offering to admit such information into evidence. Rule 4, subd. 2, recognizes that, when necessary, protective orders can be issued under applicable procedural rules. The factors to consider in seeking a protective order in regard to criminal case records are discussed in Minn. R. Crim. P. 25, Minneapolis Star & Tribune v. Kammeyer, 341 N.W.2d 550 (Minn. 1983), and Northwest Publications, Inc. v. Anderson, 259 N.W.2d 254 (Minn. 1977). For civil cases, see Minn. R. Civ. P. 26.03 and Minneapolis Star & Tribune v. Schumacher, 392 N.W.2d 197 (Minn. 1986).

Advisory Committee Comment - 2008

The 2008 addition of Rule 4, subd. 1(e)(2), is designed to recognize that race data is routinely disclosed to parties as part of juror profile information for purposes of voir dire.

The 2008 addition of Rule 4, subd. 3, is based in part on Il. 18th Cir. R. 1.03. Rule 4, subd. 3, attempts to clarify the application of the Rules to recordings of testimony in light of Supreme Court policy limiting audio and video coverage of trial court proceedings, and to clarify the proper scope and role of recordings in preparing and preserving the official record.

The broad definition of "records" in Rule 3, subd. 1, appears to include recordings of court proceedings, but arguably may not include court reporter's notes. Assuming that recordings are included, it is not clear whether recordings would then be subject to the work product exception to public access (Rule 4, subd. 1(c)) or the presumption of public access (Rule 2). Assuming the presumption applies, public access creates significant administrative burdens, unresolved issues regarding what constitutes the official record, and conflicts with the Supreme Court's policy limiting audio and video coverage of trial court proceedings. Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 4; Mn. Code Jud. Conduct Canon 3A(11); Minn. S. Ct. Order, In Re Modification of Section 3A(10) of the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct, # C7-81-300 (filed Jan. 11, 1996) (reinstating experimental program for audio and video coverage of trial court proceedings). Although the conflict might be partially reduced by permitting public access but no public dissemination of copies of the recordings, this conflicts with the policy in Rule 2 permitting both inspection and copying. Rule 4, subd. 3, provides a straightforward resolution of all conflicts and it includes controlled playback access in appropriate circumstances.

Rule 4, subd. 3(a), recognizes that the transcript is the official record and that recordings are intended to support the creation of that record. Use of recordings is limited as provided in the rule or in other rules or orders promulgated by the Supreme Court.

Rule 4, subd. 3(b), recognizes that courtroom microphones may inadvertently pick up conversation that is intended to be protected by the attorney client privilege or is simply intended to be private conversation. The rule does not permit public access to portions of recordings that contain this material.

The controlled playback access in Rule 4, subd. 3(c), reflects what typically occurs in practice. To the extent that any abuses occur, actions of the court in controlling playback are subject to appellate review. See, e.g., Blanchard v. Golden, No. C8-95-2390 (Minn. App. filed Feb. 29, 1996) (unpublished interim order) (denying appellant's motion for correction of transcript where trial court provided opportunity to listen to backup tape).

Rule 4, subd. 3(e), reflects the requirement of Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 504(c) which provides that conciliation court proceedings and trials shall not be reported. Judges presiding in conciliation court often use recordings to supplement their notes. Access to the recordings of conciliation court proceedings, hearings or trials is treated in the same manner as judge's notes under Rule 4, subd.1(c), and their playback is subject to the control of the court.

Rule 4, subd. 3, does not address the procedures for requesting and obtaining transcripts, or for correcting or modifying the same. These matters are addressed in other appropriate rules and statutes. See, e.g., Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 110; Minn. R. Crim. P. 28.02, subds. 8, 9; Minnesota Statutes 2006, sections 486.02 to 486.03.

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