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Minnesota State Law Library

Legal Research Topics

Appellate Court Opinions

Appellate 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 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.

Briefs available from the State Law Library

The Minnesota State Law Library maintains print briefs for published cases of the Minnesota Supreme Court and Minnesota Court of Appeals. Briefs may also be available electronically through our Briefs archive or through MACS. Contact Ask a Librarian if you would like to request electronic briefs or need assistance locating briefs. 

Dockets, Calendars, and Oral Arguments


In our positions as librarians, not lawyers, we can suggest resources but cannot give legal advice (such as which form to file) or legal opinions (such as how a statute might apply to particular facts). To do so could be considered the unauthorized practice of law. Even though we try to suggest materials that will be of help, more research is often required to find a complete and correct answer. For many questions, the best answer may be to consult an attorney.