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Appellate law

All kinds of cases can be appealed: divorces or other family law matters, business disputes, decisions from state agencies, property, probate, personal injury, criminal, environmental, employment or civil rights cases, and the list goes on. In the Minnesota state court system, every litigant has a right to appeal at least once—provided they do so in a timely fashion—to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.  A small percentage of cases are selected for additional review at the Minnesota Supreme Court.  Federal courts have their own rules about whether and when a case can be appealed.  Federal cases that originate in Minnesota are usually appealable to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

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Key Concepts

What is an appeal?

If you’ve already been to court and you didn’t like the result, you might think about appealing your case.  An appeal is a chance to have your case reconsidered, but it is not a do-over.  No new evidence will be admitted, no witnesses will be heard, and you will not be allowed to testify.  An appeal is a conversation, usually between lawyers and judges, about how the case played out, and about whether any legal mistakes were made.  The parties, usually through their lawyers, make their arguments in written briefs.  Often, there is also an opportunity for lawyers to appear in person before a panel of appellate judges to make an oral argument.  The reviewing court can affirm the first decision without any changes, reverse the decision, or send the case back to the original court with instructions for additional proceedings to correct a mistake.

Do I need an appellate lawyer?

The party filing an appeal must carefully choose which issues to appeal and how to communicate those issues to the reviewing court.  A responding party usually tries to persuade the reviewing court that the first decision was correct, or may also file its own appeal, asking for reconsideration of a different aspect of the case.  Whether you are the petitioner or the respondent, you will need to understand the procedural rules and standards of review.  You will need to do legal research and make specialized arguments in order to achieve or defend the result you want.

A good first step is to consult an appellate lawyer as soon as you receive an unfavorable decision, or as soon as you receive notice that the other party has filed an appeal.  Deadlines are extremely important, and you may miss your opportunity by simply missing a deadline.  A good appellate lawyer will provide information and advice about your likelihood of success and the consequences of action or inaction.

Significant Appellate Cases

Our appellate lawyers at Rinke Noonan bring decades of experience, having represented clients in well over 100 appeals. Here is a sample of our significant cases:

Minnesota Court of Appeals

In re Court Ordered MSA 103E.715 Subd 6-Repair Matter, No. A16-1431, 2017 WL 1210156 (Minn. Ct. App. 2017), review denied (June 20, 2017) (affirming limited award of attorney fees in drainage appeal)

In re Irrevocable Tr. Agreement for New Jacqueline E. Johnson Tr., No. A17-0257, 2017 WL 3585121 (Minn. Ct. App. 2017) (reversing summary judgment in disputed trust administration)

In re North Dakota Pipeline Co. LLC, 869 N.W.2d 69 (Minn. Ct. App. 2015) (EIS required in petroleum pipeline routing proceeding)

State ex rel. Swan Lake Area Wildlife Ass’n v. Nicollet Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm’rs, 799 N.W.2d 619 (Minn. Ct. App. 2011) (rejecting retroactive application of Minnesota Environmental Rights Act)

Wallboard, Inc. v. St. Cloud Mall, LLC758 N.W.2d 356 (Minn. Ct. App. 2008) (mechanic’s lien notice dispute)

Anderson v. County of Stearns, 519 N.W.2d 212 (Minn. Ct. App. 1994) (drainage appeal as exclusive remedy)

County of Swift v. Boyle, 481 N.W.2d 74 (Minn. Ct. App. 1992) (drainage authority jurisdiction)

St. Cloud Nat. Bank and Trust Co. v. Woodmen of the World Life Ins. Soc., 451 N.W.2d 75 (Minn. Ct. App. 1990) (rejecting life insurance misrepresentation claim).

Weber v. Gerads Development, 442 N.W.2d 807 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989) (wrongful death caused by release of hazardous chemicals in the workplace injuring a minor)

In re Steen, 437 N.W.2d 101 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989) (patient rights)

Casey v. Bonded Collections of St. Cloud, Inc., 392 N.W.2d 650 (Minn. Ct. App. 1986) (applying Minnesota shareholder dispute provisions and rejecting mandatory buyout)

Duevel v. Jennissen352 N.W.2d 93 (Minn. Ct. App. 1984) (drainage, reasonable use)

Minnesota Supreme Court

Northern States Power Co. ex rel. Bd. of Directors v. Aleckson, 831 N.W.2d 303 (Minn. 2013) (upholding landowner buy the farm rights in power line eminent domain proceedings)

Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers Watershed District v. Stengrim, 784 N.W.2d 834 (Minn. 2010) (setting standard for strategic lawsuit against public participation)

Kmart Corp. v. County of Stearns, 710 N.W.2d 761 (Minn. 2006) (upholding mandatory dismissal provisions of property tax statute)

Dead Lake Ass’n, Inc. v. Otter Tail Cty., 695 N.W.2d 129 (Minn. 2005) (one of the Dead Lake trilogy of cases involving protection of natural environmental lake against intensive shoreline development)

Fahrendorff v. N. Homes, Inc., 597 N.W.2d 905 (Minn. 1999) (reinstating abused minor’s claim against group home)

Lilyerd v. Carlson, 499 N.W.2d 803 (Minn. 1993) (farm mortgage right of first refusal)

Farmers & Merchants State Bank of Pierz v. Bosshart, 400 N.W.2d 739 (Minn. 1987) (surplus lines company liable to insured if statutory disclosure not made)

J.L. Shiely Co. v. Stearns County, 395 N.W.2d 357 (Minn. 1986) (upholding gravel tax against uniformity claim)

Fischer v. City of Sauk Rapids, 325 N.W.2d 816 (Minn. 1982) (adverse possession of property does not apply against a municipality)

Household Fin. Corp. v. Pugh, 288 N.W.2d 701 (Minn. 1980) (Truth in Lending Act)

U.S. Courts of Appeals

Richland/Wilkin Joint Powers Authority v. United States Army Corps of Engineers826 F.3d 1030 (8th Cir 2016) (affirming preliminary injunction protecting Minnesota’s environmental review against dormant commerce clauses claim)

Parker v. U.S. Dep’t of Transp., 207 F.3d 359 (6th Cir. 2000) (Federal Highway Administration must apply an individualized test of driving ability for truck driver with physical disabilities)

Rauenhorst v. U.S. Department of Transp., Federal Highway Admin, 95 F.3d 715 (8th Cir. 1996) (disabled truck drivers entitled to individualized determination in commercial licensing)