> United States > Minnesota
|Established|| 00, 1849|
|Disbanded|| Still Active |
|Contributor||The Oncoming Storm|
|Last Modified||The Oncoming Storm April 12, 2004 07:19pm|
The constitution provides for one chief justice and from six to eight associate justices. Justices are elected by the people of the state to six-year terms; vacancies are filled by governorís appointment. Justices are elected without party designation. Candidates file for a specific judicial office, which is designated on the ballot by seat number. Functions: The chief justice of the supreme court is the administrative head of the judicial branch and supervises the work of all courts. A state court administrator, supreme court administrator/clerk of the appellate courts, and state law librarian are appointed by the court. The court has power and duties to promote effective utilization of judicial officers and conduct continuing study of the court system.
Minnesota Supreme Court is the highest court in the state. The court hears appeals of cases from the Court of Appeals and the other agencies and can make decisions that impact future cases, as well. Appeals are the main business of the state's highest court, along with administering the court system and regulating the practice of law. The court has jurisdictions over appeals from the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals, the Tax Court, defendants convicted of first-degree murder, and discretionary review of decisions of the Court of Appeals. The court also has jurisdiction over legislative election contests. In addition, the court may issue writs of mandamus, prohibition, and habeas corpus.
In hearing appeals the Supreme Court acts as the legal system safety valve, a double check to assure that justice is being administered in a fair and legally correct manner throughout the state. In addition, it is this court's obligation to ensure that the constitution is upheld in cases brought before it.
The decisions of the Supreme Court sometimes only affect those people involved in the lawsuit. But, as often happens, the court's orders may touch the lives of many citizens in the state. For example, the Supreme Court made a ruling on wild and scenic rivers, important to environmentalists, campers, canoers, and also to property owners. The court upheld a challenged state law that prevented certain owners of riverfront property from cutting trees or building too close to the water in order to preserve the river's natural beauty. This and other decisions of the Supreme Court serve as a model for all future cases in the state and must be followed under a rule of precedent.
There are no witnesses, no juries, no evidence and no trials in the handling of a case before the Supreme Court. Instead of one judge, there are seven justices.
All of the decisions of the Supreme Court are written. A justice is assigned to write the opinion of the court, explaining the legal basis, and other justice's review it and make revisions. This process takes from one to six months. The opinion is then released and printed immediately in a legal newspaper. Later the decisions are bound in books for law libraries.
Minnesota Supreme Court opinions can be appealed only to the United States Supreme Court, and then only if a matter of the United States Constitution is involved. Each year less than a half dozen Minnesota cases reach that stage.
Minnesota's six associate justices and one chief justice also are charged with other duties. The Supreme Court supervises and coordinates the work of the state's courts. Under their auspices comes a host of judiciary functions, from overseeing the processing of cases and making rules for the courts, to admitting applicants to the practice of law and disciplining lawyers and judges. The Supreme Court is located at 225 Minnesota Judicial Center, St. Paul, MN 55155, (651) 296-2581.
The Supreme Court has one court term each year beginning in September and continuing through May and often going into June. During the summer the court conducts hearings which do not require oral argument. The court has a commissioner's office which is responsible for the preparation of "special term" matters (extraordinary and emergency appeals, matters usually not heard in open court) and most cases processed without an oral hearing.
Under the law, a candidate seeking election to the Supreme Court must specify that the candidate is filing for a specific justice's office. The justices are elected to six-year terms on a non-partisan ballot. Vacancies during a term on the court are filled by governor's appointment.
The Supreme Court usually meets in the morning at 9:00 a.m. September through May and generally does not hear cases on Fridays. Cases are heard in the State Capitol Courtroom or in Courtroom 300 of the Minnesota Judicial Center. Public seating in the Supreme Court chambers is available for about 36 people. Seating is on a first-come basis and reservations are not taken. For specific information about what case is being heard on a specific day, call the office of the Clerk of Appellate Courts.
HISTORY OF THE SUPREME COURT:
The Minnesota Supreme Court is, in a sense, older than the state itself. It was established by the Territorial Act in 1849, nine years before statehood. There were three justices then, all lawyers from other states who were appointed by President Zachary Taylor at a yearly salary of $1,800. Having no courthouse, the Territorial Supreme Court first met in a hotel in St. Paul, later in churches, stores, or wherever a meeting room was available. The territorial court system had a unique feature which has been discontinued. The territorial justices each held trials in a section of the territory and then re-assembled to sit on the Supreme Court to review their own decisions.
Once Minnesota became a state in 1858, the state constitution provided for a separate Supreme Court. The justices were to be elected to office for six years -- a longer term than other government officers to keep the court independent, less subject to political influence. The court was to be separate -- deciding only appeals from other courts. The court was to have three justices, although as the number of cases grew over the years, changes were made to permit the court's size to increase.
The first case heard before the court concerned a stray cow. The appeal involved a lawsuit in which one of the parties wanted two dollars pasture fees for a cow that had wandered onto his property. Although today this may seem to be a minor issue, it was one of importance in Minnesota's early agricultural setting. The Supreme Court ruled against the payment of the money.