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Court Records : Supreme & Appeals Courts

About the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals

The Minnesota Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are appellate courts which hear appeals regarding decisions of lower trial courts, specifically the Minnesota district courts.

The Minnesota Supreme Court, created in 1849 when Minnesota became a territory, is the highest court in the state.  It hears appeals from the Court of Appeals, district court decisions in all first degree murder convictions, and other decisions if the Supreme Court chooses to bypass the Court of Appeals, Tax Court, and Workers Compensation Court of Appeals.   Prior to the establishment of the Court of Appeals the Supreme Court heard all appeals from the lower courts.  

The Minnesota Court of Appeals, established in 1983, reviews appeals of  final decisions of the district courts, state agencies, and local government.  

 

Case Files

Case Files consist of records relating to cases appealed from lower courts to the Supreme Court or, after 1982, the Court of Appeals.  This can include:

  • Briefs
  • Arguments detailing the legal basis of the appeal
  • Case records
  • Transcripts of testimony
  • Exhibits

Supreme Court and Appeals Court case files are combined in the same numerical sequence and you need to know the case number (not the North Western Reporter number) to access a file.  There is a microfilmed index to case files from 1851 - 1981.  Case files from 1850 to 1992 are housed at the Minnesota Historical Society.  Contact the Clerk of Appellate Courts for information on accessing more recent case files. Cases regarding attorney discipline (1979-1988) are filed separately from the general case files.

There is an online finding aid that describes the general Case Files in detail.    

Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Case Files are stored off-site and may require up to a week to retrieve.

Briefs

Briefs are legal documents presented to the Court to argue why one side should win the appeal.  There is a set of microfiche Briefs from the Supreme Court and Appeals Court (1960 - 1990) in the Library.  Briefs from January 2002 to present are available online.  

The microfiched briefs are organized by the number assigned by the North Western Reporter law digest and you need the North Western volume and digest number (not the case number) to access the brief.  

MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid/List.   

Naturalization Records

From 1858 - 1905 the Minnesota Supreme Court held naturalization proceedings as a "court of record," granting citizenship to immigrants.  Most of the naturalizations filed with Supreme Court were for residents of Ramsey, Dakota, Hennepin or other counties near the city of St. Paul.  There are print and microfilm indexes to these records.  

MNHS call number: Digital finding aid 

For more information on naturalizations, please see our Naturalization Records Research Guide

Other Supreme Court Records

Judgment books  - Decisions of the court as recorded in the order books and information on the party judged liable for court costs.

Minutes - Daily records of court proceedings maintained by the clerk of court, including actions taken regarding case hearings, appointments, and related matters.

Opinions - Judicial opionions of the Supreme Court in litigation cases and other matters of law, as issued for public distribution.  Minnesota Court of Appeals and Supreme Court opinions since 1996 are archived online by the Minnesota State Law Library.

Order books - Official statements of the court, affirming, reversing, or modifying the decisions of lower courts that were appealed to the Supreme Court.

Published records and reports - Reports, newsletters, and miscellaneous print and near-print items produced by or concerning the Supreme Court.
MNHS call number:  Digital finding aid

Registers of actions - Indexed by Judgment debtor, the registers give the date and brief notation of all actions taken by parties involved in each court case heard by the Supreme Court.
MNHS call number:  Digital finding aid

Accessing Supreme Court Records

In-Person

Supreme Court and Court of Appeals court records at MNHS are generally open to public use, but a small number of records have restrictions.

  • The first step in accessing these records is to find the case file number.  There is a microfilmed index to case files from 1851 - 1981. 
  • If you have the North Western Reporter number for a case heard from 1960 to 1990 and need the case file number, please consult the numerical list of the microfiched briefs.  This list is an incomplete list of all cases heard by the Supreme Court, but it contains corresponding case file numbers for North Western Reporter numbers. 
  • Supreme Court and Court of Appeals case files are located off site in remote storage. Advance arrangements are required in order to view the files and retrieval may take up to a week. 
  • Search the online catalog for more information on records of the Supreme Court by:
    • Selecting "Author Keyword" from the Search Type options on the left-hand column of the catalog
    • Select "State Government Records" from the MHS Catalog Options dropdown menus
    • Enter "Supreme Court" in the Search For box and click on the Search button
       

Order Online

To order a court record online, fill out the order form on the Court Case Search Request page in our online store. Please include any and all information you have about the record you are seeking.    

Supreme & Appeals Courts: MNHS Links

Supreme & Appeals Courts: Links Elsewhere

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