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Appellate courts; State courts; Minnesota. Supreme Court


On November 2, 1982, a majority of Minnesota voters approved a constitutional amendment that transformed the state's appellate judiciary. A newly created Court of Appeals, currently consisting of 12 judges, began accepting cases on August 1, 1983, and deciding them on November 1, 1983. To assess the consequences of this change, ·the authors explored the rationale underlying the amendment, examined the anticipated costs and benefits of implementation, and analyzed case load data. Questionnaire responses from members of the Supreme Court are discussed, jurisdictional relationships between the two courts are explained, and decision· making practices are compared (including oral argument and published opinion frequency in cases raising constitutional questions). Prospects for enhancing the quality and reducing the quantity of decisions by the Supreme Court are good due to: 1) the diversion of nearly 80% of new filings since August 1983 to the Court of Appeals; and 2) the rapidity with which the Court of Appeals, sitting in panels of three, has been clearing its docket. The full impact of the reform had not yet been felt in Supreme Court chambers by February 1985. The time lag was due to the priority the high court was giving to disposition of a 1200-case backlog.

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