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Unpublished and Nonprecedenial Opinions of the Court of Appeal

Unpublished Opinions

Prior to 2020, Minnesota Court of Appeals opinions were designated as published or unpublished. According to prior versions of  Minnesota Statute 480A.08, opinions would be designated as published only when the decision:

  • establishes a new rule of law;
  • overrules a previous court of appeals decision that had not been reviewed by the supreme court;
  • provides important procedural guidelines in interpreting statutes or administrative rules;
  • involves significant legal issues; or
  • aids significantly in the administration of justice. (Minn. Stat. 480A.08)

Unpublished opinions were still made available to give the parties a brief explanation of why the court decided as it did, but they were not intended to be used as precedent and can be cited in arguments before the courts of the state only in limited circumstances. They are, however, still public documents and are available in the opinion archive and through commercial (fee-charging) services such as Westlaw. (Westlaw is available at no charge for public use in the Law Library.) Unpublished opinions in our opinion archive have a heading that states: 

This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3. 

Nonprecendential Opinions

Legislative action in 2020 changed this distinction and now opinions are designated as precedential or nonpresidential in accordance with the current version of Minn. Stat. 480A.08 and Minnesota Rule of Civil Appellate Procedure 136.01 which states that when considering whether an opinion will be precedential, the panel that decides the merits of the appeal, may consider all relevant factors including whether the opinion:  

  • establishes a new principle or rule of law or clarifies existing caselaw;
  • decides a novel issue involving a constitutional provision, statute, administrative rule, or rule of court; resolves a significant or recurring legal issue;
  • applies settled principles or controlling precedent;
  •  involves an atypical factual record or procedural history;
  • includes an issue pending before the United States Supreme Court or the Minnesota Supreme Court; or
  • warrants a particular form based on the parties' arguments, including, but not limited to, the parties' statements allowed by Rule 128.02, subdivision l, paragraph (f).

Similar to unpublished opinions,  nonprecedential opinions are still public documents and are available in the opinion archive and through commercial (fee-charging) services such as Westlaw. (Westlaw is available at no charge for public use in the Law Library.)  Nonprecedential opinions in our opinion archive will have the following heading at the top of the first page: 

This opinion is nonprecedential except as provided by Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 136.01, subd. 1(c).

As Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 136.01, subd. 1(c) states:  "Nonprecedential opinions and order opinions are not binding authority except as law of the case, res judicata or collateral estoppel, but nonprecedential opinions may be cited as persuasive authority."
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