The Minnesota judicial branch works in tandem with the executive and legislative branches of the state to oversee its affairs.
There are two distinct types of courts in the Minnesota Judicial Branch. These are the appellate courts and the trial courts. The appellate courts are the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals, while the Minnesota District Courts are the trial courts. The State of Minnesota also has two other courts: the Minnesota Tax Court and the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals. These two courts are independent agencies of the Minnesota State Government’s executive branch with exclusive jurisdiction over tax-related matters and workers’ compensation matters, respectively. However, appeals from matters heard in these courts are filed with the state’s Supreme Court. In turn, federal appellate courts hear appeals from the state supreme court. Only federal courts have the judicial authority to hear federal cases and matters pertaining to the federal judiciary.
Each trial court, federal court, and appellate court has an administrative office that maintains Minnesota court records, offering official accounts of judicial proceedings. These records are available to members of the public on request, per Minnesota statute.
How Do Minnesota Courts Work?
The Minnesota District Courts are the state’s courts of general jurisdiction, and all criminal and civil matters filed in the state begin at these courts. Note that this does not include matters under the Tax Court’s jurisdiction and the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals. District Courts are typically divided into divisions based on the types of cases being heard. In most counties, these include Criminal, Civil, Family, Traffic, Probate, Juvenile, and Conciliation Divisions. In District Courts, the parties involved in cases are allowed to present evidence, give testimonies, and examine witnesses during the course of these trials. All these are taken into account before judgments are issued.
After a judgment has been issued in a District Court, it can be appealed in the state’s Court of Appeals. The Minnesota Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction over most cases filed in the state. However, cases involving the death penalty are filed directly at the Minnesota Supreme Court. Cases heard in the Minnesota Court of Appeals do not involve examining witnesses or the presentation of testimonies and evidence. Instead, the appealing parties submit briefs and present oral arguments reviewed by the court alongside the records of the trials in the District Courts before judgments on the cases are issued.
Decisions issued by the Court of Appeals can be appealed at the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Minnesota Supreme Court is the state’s highest appellate court, and any judgment issued by this court is considered the final decision in a case. In addition to cases from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court also reviews the Minnesota Tax Court’s judgments and the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals. Like the Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Supreme Court does not admit new evidence, witnesses, or testimony when reviewing cases.
What is the Minnesota Supreme Court?
The Minnesota Supreme Court is the court of last resort in the state’s judicial system. The Supreme Court has discretionary appellate jurisdiction over all cases filed in the Minnesota Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Tax Court, and the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals. It also has exclusive mandatory jurisdiction over certain cases, such as first-degree murder cases. In addition to its judicial activities, the Minnesota Supreme Court is responsible for promulgating and enforcing the rules and regulations that govern law practice in Minnesota and the state’s courts’ procedures.
The Minnesota Supreme Court consists of seven justices that are appointed through non-partisan elections. The decisions issued by these justices in the cases brought before them for review are considered final.
Minnesota Court of Appeals
The Minnesota Court of Appeals is the state’s intermediate appellate court. Most appeals from the District Courts and government agencies are filed with this court. However, appeals from workers’ compensation matters, tax matters, and cases involving a charge of first-degree murder are filed directly to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals consists of 19 judges appointed through non-partisan elections. Court of Appeals Judges sit in panels of three when reviewing cases, and the decisions they issue in a case can be appealed to the state’s Supreme Court. Note that the Supreme Court typically accepts only about 10% of these appeals. Therefore, the Minnesota Court of Appeals is responsible for most of the state’s judicial system’s final decisions.
Minnesota District Courts
The Minnesota District Courts are the state’s trial courts. These courts have general jurisdiction over all criminal and civil matters filed in the state. They are generally organized into various divisions to handle these cases.
The Minnesota Judicial Branch has over 290 District Court Judges. District Court Judges are appointed through non-partisan elections. The decisions issued by these judges can be appealed at the Minnesota Court of Appeals or directly to the Minnesota Supreme Court for first-degree murder cases.
Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals
The Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals is a specialized court under the state government’s executive branch. As stipulated by Minnesota Statutes Chapter 175A, this court has statewide jurisdiction overall workers’ compensation-related matters in Minnesota.
The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals consists of five judges that are appointed by the State Governor. These judges either sit in panels of three or with all the judges present when deciding cases. Appeals from the decisions issued by this court are made directly to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Minnesota Tax Court
The Minnesota Tax Court is a specialized court of record under the state’s executive branch created by Minnesota Statutes Chapter 271. The Tax Court has general jurisdiction over all tax-related matters filed in the state.
The Minnesota Tax Court consists of three judges appointed by the State Governor, and appeals from the court are made to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
What are Appeals and Court Limits in Minnesota?
An appeal in the Minnesota Judicial Branch refers to a request asking a higher court to review a lower court’s decision in a case. Such requests are typically made to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court.
When a District Court issues a judgment, any of the parties involved in the case has the right to file an appeal with the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Decisions made by most governmental agencies can also be appealed at this court. Generally, most appeals in the Minnesota court system seek to determine whether the law was correctly applied by the District Court Judge or government agency when making their decisions.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals consists of 19 judges that sit in three-judge panels to review cases. When a case is brought before these judges, the appealing parties cannot present witnesses or new evidence. Instead, the appealing parties submit written arguments known as briefs. These briefs must contain only issues that were previously raised and ruled on in the District Court or government agency where the matter was initially heard. The Court of Appeals may also allow the attorneys of the appealing parties to make oral arguments before it issues a decision in a case. If no oral arguments are to be presented, then the three-judge panel schedules a non-oral conference to review the submitted briefs. In the State of Minnesota, oral arguments are open to the appealing parties and interested members of the public, while non-oral conferences are closed to everybody, including the appealing parties and their attorneys.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals is required to issue a written decision on every case brought before it not later than 90 days after oral arguments have been presented. If no oral arguments are presented, then the written decision must be issued not later than 90 days after the scheduled date for the non-oral conference. This written decision can be further appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court has the right to choose whether or not it accepts this appeal. As a result of this, over 90% of the Minnesota court system’s appeals filed are decided by the state’s Court of Appeals.
The Minnesota Supreme Court is the highest appellate court in the state. This court has discretionary appellate jurisdiction over most cases brought before it for review from the Court of Appeals. It generally accepts between 10-12% of these cases every year. However, some types of matters are automatically accepted by the Supreme Court. These include appeals from first-degree murder cases and certain election-related matters. The Minnesota Supreme Court can also accept appeals from the state’s Workers’ Compensation and Tax Courts.
When the Minnesota Supreme Court accepts an appeal, the appealing parties must submit complete records of the trial proceedings in the District Courts and briefs that explain the basis of the appeal and the necessary laws that apply to the appeal. The Supreme Court Justices review these documents before they issue a decision. In cases involving significant law points, the appealing parties can make oral arguments before the justices. After the records and briefs have been reviewed and any oral arguments have been presented, a justice is assigned to write an opinion on the case. The rest of the justices then either agree with the reasons for the opinion and sign it, or disagree with the opinion and write a dissenting one, or agree and write a concurring opinion with a different line of reasoning. The majority action taken by the justices is considered the final decision of the court. Once a final decision has been issued, it can no longer be appealed in Minnesota. Parties unsatisfied with the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision can only appeal further to the United States Supreme Court. However, this can only happen in cases that involve a question of federal law or the United States Constitution.
Any appeal filed in the Minnesota Judicial Branch must be done within the approved time limit. A petition for an appeal made to the Minnesota Supreme Court must be made no later than 30 days after the decision of the Court of Appeals, the Tax Court or the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals has been issued. The time limit for appeals from the District Courts to the Court of Appeals typically depends on the type of case being appealed:
- Civil appeal must be made no later than 60 days after a judgment has been entered in the case or a written notice of an order has been served.
- Eviction appeal must be made no later than 15 days after the judgment was issued.
- Unemployment benefits appeal must be made no later than 30 days after a final decision by an unemployment law judge has been issued and received.
- Criminal appeals from felony and gross misdemeanor cases must be made no later than 90 days after sentencing.
- Criminal appeals from misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor cases must be made no later than 30 days after sentencing.
- Post-conviction appeal must be made no later than 60 days after the petition was denied.
Note that the Minnesota Court of Appeals may grant an extension of the time limit to an appealing party that files a motion showing good cause in some cases.
How Do I Find My Case Number in Minnesota?
Case numbers are unique letter and number combinations that are given to cases filed in court. These numbers help court officials and other interested parties track the cases’ progress as they move through the state’s court system. Individuals that wish to find particular case numbers in the state of Minnesota may do so at no cost through the Trial Court Public Access Remote View Portal and the Appellate Courts Case Management System maintained by the Minnesota Judicial Branch. Note that using these platforms will require the user to provide the names of the parties involved in the case of interest.
Does Minnesota Hold Remote Trials?
Yes, the Minnesota Judicial Branch holds remote trials and court proceedings. On the 20th of November, 2020, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an order directing all court proceedings in the state to be held via remote technology allowing the parties involved in a case, their attorneys, and other necessary court officials to appear in a courtroom without physically being there. However, in-person court proceedings may be conducted in cases where the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice has granted exception.
Members of the public interested in remotely attending a court proceeding in any of the state’s District Courts may do so by contacting the court that is to hold the proceeding and requesting permission. Access to these remote court proceedings is usually decided based on the court, the case, and the technology available.
Archived recordings of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals oral arguments can also be viewed online. Recordings of Supreme Court oral arguments are typically posted on the same day of the arguments, while Court of Appeals oral arguments are posted the next day.