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?
- When briefs are filed with the Clerk of Appellate Courts for cases under review by the Minnesota Supreme Court or Court of Appeals they are made available in the "Courthouse View" of Minnesota Appellate Courts Case Management System. The system is accessible from public access computer terminal in the Minnesota State Law Library or at any Minnesota district (county) courthouse. The public version of this system, P-MACS, provides access to many other required documents for a case, but does not include briefs.
- Briefs may also be requested via email: Appellate Case Records Email Request Instructions. General questions about accessing briefs may be directed to the Minnesota State Law Library via our Ask A Librarian form or by calling 651-297-7651.
Briefs in print: The Minnesota State Law Library (MSLL) receives copies of the briefs, and, sometimes, petitions for review or rehearing. 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 in print: Prints of briefs for published opinions of the Minnesota Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are also 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.
Bound briefs, from volume 300 North Western Reporter, second series (300 N.W. 2d) onward, 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 (300 N.W. 2d), 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.
Briefs for unpublished cases are kept by the Clerk's office in an off-site storage facility. If you need to access a brief for an unpublished case you may do so by calling (651) 296-2581 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by using the Clerk's office email request form. The process may take up to two weeks.
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 "How Do I Find Briefs and Oral Arguments".
- Briefs are searchable from the MSLL Web site's search page. To find examples of informal briefs, use the search term: informal.