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Minnesota Appellate Court Briefs

What are briefs?
When attorneys argue before the appellate courts, they file a written statement of their arguments, and the authorities that support them, in the form of a brief. The content and form of briefs are set out in the Minnesota Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure (see particularly Rule 128). The appellant argues that the trial court below acted incorrectly and should be reversed; the respondent argues that the decision below was correct and should be upheld. In addition to these main briefs, there may also be a reply brief. Occasionally, someone who is not a party to the case but is interested in the outcome will ask to file an amicus brief as a "friend of the court," supporting either the appellant or respondent. Other documents that are important to the arguments may be attached to the briefs as appendices. On rare occasions, the Supreme Court's order granting review will not require the parties to file additional briefs. In these cases, the court relies on the briefs filed at the Court of Appeals level.

Why are briefs valuable for legal research?
Attorneys consult earlier briefs for guidance in preparing successful legal arguments to use when presenting their own cases before the appellate courts. The table of authorities section of a brief also provides a handy list of the statutes and cases that governed the issues of law at the time the brief was filed.

Where can briefs be found prior to a decision by the appellate courts?
Briefs filed with the Clerk of Appellate Courts for cases under review by the Minnesota Supreme Court or Court of Appeals are available in two locations:

1. Clerk of Appellate Courts
Suite 305 - Minnesota Judicial Center
25 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
St. Paul, MN 55155

2. Minnesota State Law Library
Ground Floor - Minnesota Judicial Center
25 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
St. Paul, MN 55155

The Clerk's Office keeps the files containing all required documents for a case, including briefs, petitions for review, etc. Briefs and other filed documents cannot be removed from the office, but they may be reviewed and photocopied there. The Clerk's Office will also provide basic information about a case over the telephone.

The Minnesota State Law Library (MSLL) receives duplicate copies of the briefs, and, sometimes, petitions for review or rehearing. All other documents can only be found in the Clerk's Office. The most current briefs are shelved by the docket number assigned to the case by the court. The library retains all briefs until a final action is taken by the court. If the court issues a published opinion, the Library retains the briefs for binding and microfiching. When a case is settled out of court, summarily affirmed, or receives an unpublished opinion, the briefs are discarded.

Where can briefs be found after a decision of the courts?
Briefs for published opinions of the Minnesota Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are available at MSLL. Since 1977 (vol. 253 N.W.2d), briefs have been bound by the North Western Reporter citation of the case. Cases from 1917 to 1977 are bound according to their Minnesota Reports citation. Briefs from 1864 to 1916 are arranged by date.

Briefs from 1917 onward, including unbound current birefs, may be checked out for a three-week period. A deposit may be required. Check with a Public Services librarian for more information.

Beginning with volume 300 of North Western Reporter, second series, MSLL has also produced microfiche copies of briefs arranged by the N.W.2d citation. Copies of the microfiche collection can be found at academic law libraries in the Twin Cities and many county law libraries. The larger academic law libraries may also have older briefs in hard copy.

Beginning with volume 705 of North Western Reporter, second series, MSLL has added selected briefs to its website. A yellow bullet () next to a case name on the citation list indicates that briefs are available for a particular case. In accordance with the Public Access Rules, appendices are not available online.

Can briefs be searched for by topic?
Traditionally, to find a brief by topic required first finding a case on the topic. Now, MSLL has taken the statements of the issues from briefs filed for published cases (excluding attorney discipline cases) and compiled them in a searchable database. Contents begin with volume 637 N.W. 2d (January 2002.) For more information, see Minnesota Appellate Court Briefs Collection. The database is searchable from the MSLL Web site's search page. To find examples of informal briefs, use the search term: informal.

What other documents might be available?

Transcripts. It is the duty of the appellant to acquire trial transcripts from the court reporter if all of the necessary parts of the trial proceedings are not already part of the record. These transcripts of the lower court proceedings are filed with the Clerk of Appellate Courts. Occasionally, duplicate copies of transcripts are deposited with MSLL. These are shelved by docket number and do not circulate. They are retained for 10 years.

Opinions. The Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court issue written opinions and orders each week. For more information, see Minnesota State Court System: Opinions and Orders.

Minnesota State Law Library: Minnesota Appellate Court Briefs

Last updated on March 13, 2015.
Links checked on March 13, 2015.

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