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Minnesota Court Of Appeals Celebrates 25 Years of Doing Minnesota Justice

Posted: Friday, October 31, 2008

The Minnesota Court of Appeals is celebrating its 25th anniversary on November 6, 2008.  The court, created by a 1982 constitutional amendment, has been nationally recognized for its excellence in case management, commitment to written opinions explaining the reasons for its decisions, opportunity for oral argument in every case, and consistent issuance of opinions within 90 days of case submission.

The forces that combined to create the court developed primarily between 1957 and 1982 when filings submitted to the Minnesota Supreme Court increased more than 70 percent- from 213 to 1,682.  The rapidly growing backlog created havoc in the performance of all the state's courts and the inevitable conflict between volume and quality became apparent.

To cope with the increased workload, the Supreme Court attempted a number of initiatives that included increasing its size from seven to nine, hearing arguments in panels, issuing summary affirmances, and relying more heavily on staff.  But the court ultimately concluded that these methods were not working and that the quality of all Minnesota courts had been significantly eroded.  As a result, the Supreme Court, the Minnesota Citizens Conference to Improve the Administration of Justice, and the Minnesota Judicial Council recommended that a constitutional amendment be adopted to create an appeals court. 

The Minnesota House Judiciary Committee passed the appeals court bill in February 1982, closely followed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The amendment was placed on the November 1982 ballot and was supported by 77 percent of general election voters. 

The Court of Appeals has honored the commitment of the people of Minnesota who worked to create the court- it has decided more than 55,000 cases since November 2, 1983; continuously provided the opportunity for oral argument in every case; issued detailed written opinions in all cases; issued virtually all of its opinions within 90 days of submission to the panel; heard cases in courthouses around the state; and provided the final decision in approximately 95 percent of the 2,200 to 2,400 appeals filed every year.  In recognition of this achievement, the court has planned this quarter-century celebration.

The celebration will include a day-long symposium in conjunction with William Mitchell College of Law and an evening event at the Landmark Center where the first members of the court were sworn in on November 2, 1983.  The November 6 symposium will feature remarks by Edward Toussaint, Chief Judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals; remarks by Eric Magnuson, Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court; a panel assessing the court's impact on specific areas of Minnesota law, moderated by Marianne Short, a former Court of Appeals judge and current managing partner at Dorsey & Whitney; a luncheon address by Judge Harriet Lansing, one of the original members of the Court of Appeals, entitled "Twenty-Five Years of Doing Minnesota Justice."  The symposium will also feature a replicated oral argument to a Court of Appeals panel and an unusual opportunity to observe a court decision-making conference following the replicated oral argument.  Because decision-making conferences are not public, this is a rare opportunity to observe the inner workings of court processes.

The evening event at the Landmark Center celebrates the Court of Appeal's history with a screening of a film produced by Lightshed Productions entitled, "Doing Minnesota Justice."   Professor Sherrilyn Ifill, a law professor at the University of Maryland and a nationally recognized speaker on fair and impartial courts, will deliver the keynote address.

For more information, please contact Chief Judge Edward Toussaint, Judge Harriet Lansing, or visit the William Mitchell website, www.wmitchell.edu.  For general information on the Court of Appeals please visit the Minnesota Judicial Branch website, www.mncourts.gov.

William Mitchell College of Law Symposium Schedule