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Minnesota Legal History

  • Minnesota Legislative History
  • Rider Bennett Dissolution

  • Resources in this category:
       Chronological List of Justices and Judges of the Minnesota Appellate Courts (Minnesota State Law Library)
       For the Record by Stawicki, Elizabeth (August 13, 1999) (Minnesota Public Radio)
    Interview with then MSBA president Wood Foster, who relates stories from For the Record: 150 Years of Law and Lawyers in Minnesota. published by the Minnesota State Bar Association in 1999.

    Note: This publication cannot be purchased in print from the Minnesota State Bar Association. It can be found in public libraries and in the libraries of MSBA members at the time of its publication. And in Google Books.

       Historical Information about the Minnesota Legislature (Minnesota Legislative Reference Library)
    Information about the House and Senate leadership, party control, legislative sessions, problematic Gubernatorial appointments (appointees rejected by the Senate or a Senate committee, appointees who resigned or were fired before confirmation), vetos since 1939, family connections in the legislature, and women serving in the legislature.
       Minnesota Human Rights History 1967 - (Minnesota Department of Human Rights)
       Preface to the First Edition of Minnesota Digest - A Digest of the Decisions of the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota by Dunnell, Mark B. (January 1, 1910) (Minnesota Law Book Co.)
    From Volume 1. Published by Minnesota Law Book Co., Owatonna, Minnesota. Copyright 1910 by Mark B. Dunnell.

    Research to locate this courtesy of the Minnesota State Law Library.

       Researching Family, Party, Bar, and Court History via Historic Minnesota District Court Records (Minnesota Historical Society)
    "Most district court records in the Minnesota Historical Society are open to unrestricted use. Certain categories of case files, especially adoption files less than 100 years old and some paternity case files, have restricted access and special access procedures."
       Retired Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justices Portraits and Biographies (Minnesota State Court System)
       Minnesota Legislators Past and Present (Minnesota Legislative Reference Library)
    Database and individual profiles of Minnesota legislators.

    The Legislative Reference Library calls it "the only comprehensive list of Minnesota legislators."

    Search by name segments, includilng nickname, date of firth, birthplace, gender, educational institution, educational degree, occupation, residence when elected, county, or other government services. View all legislators in a particular session.

    Once you select a legislator, you will find far more information than the fields listed above, including committee assignments and family information.

       Minnesota Probate Law (1922) by Dunnell, Mark Boothby (January 1, 1922) (Minnesota Law Book Company)
    From Harvard Law Library. Scanned by Google. Published in 1922. For historical purposes only. 1005 pages.


    This book has been prepared in the belief that the probate law of the state is now sufficiently developed to justify separate treatise devoted to its exposition. The Organic Act approved March 3, 1849, provided fora probate courts with jurisdiction "as limited by law." The Constitution of the state, as originally adopted in 1857, provided for probate court in each organized county of the state and defined its jurisdiction in general terms. This provision has remained unchanged to the present time, except the recent change extending the term of the judge to four years. Our probate statutes are not original but in the main were copied from the statutes of Wisconsin. Their ultimate source of this country is to be found in the statutes of Massachusetts and New York. The probate statutes of Wisconsin were enforced in the Territory of Minnesota by virtue of the act of Congress approved March 3, 1849, establishing the Territory. The statutes were adopted, without material modification, by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Minnesota in its second session, commencing January 1, 1851, and are found in the Revised Statutes of 1851. They form the basis of our present Probate Code which was adopted in 1889. The Probate Code did not introduce any very radical changes in our probate system, the most important change being that requiring all claims against the states of decedents arising on contract to be presented to the probate court for allowance. Prior to that time such claims were presented to commissioners appointed by the probate court, except in small states. The Revised Laws of 1905 introduced a radical change in our probate practice by requiring all proceedings in the probate court to be initiated by petition. This overruled several decisions of the Supreme Court holding various notices jurisdictional. Laws 1913, c. 470, providing for the allowance of claims against the estates of persons under guardianship by the probate court, was repealed by Laws 1915, c. 342. Our statutes relating to the commitment of insane, feeble-minded and inebriate persons, were thoroughly revised by Laws 1917, c. 344. It is surprising how few radical changes have been made in our statutes since their original adoption in 1851. We have been far less progressive than the older states from which we took our statutes. While our statutes work fairly well in practice they need to be revised and supplemented. The fundamental distinction which they make between real and personal property as respects devolution, liability for debts and legacies, sale, and authority of the personal representative, harks back to the feudal days of England and ought to be abolished or very materially modified. A very large number of decisions from other states have been cited in this book, care having been exercised to make sure that the statutes under which they arose were sufficiently like ours to make them pertinent. The probate statutes of Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Oregon, are in most particulars the same as our own, so that decisions of those states construing their statutes are especially valuable in considering hours. The probate statutes of the new England in Western states are generally sufficiently like ours to make the decisions of those states construing a statute is pertinent here. The decisions of New York relating to a state, Powers and trusts are well-not a controlling on our courts. All the probate statutes of this state are printed in this book in full, except in a few cases indicated. All the decisions of the Supreme Court relating to probate matters, published prior to August 15, 1922, are included. The forms in this book are to be used only in the absence of the settled practice in the particular court in which the proceedings are head. Unfortunately there is no uniformity of the practice in the various counties of the state. The forms have been prepared in the hope that they may prove useful to the profession of the state notwithstanding this lack of uniformity of practice. The official forms prepared by the Attorney General for inheritance tax proceedings, and by the Board of Control for proceedings for the commitment of insane, feeble-minded and inebriate persons, are omitted.

    Mark B. Dunnell.

    Owatonna, Minnesota.

       Minnesota Legal History Project (Douglas A. Hedin)
    "A private, noncommercial endeavor" launched in 2008 to preserve some of the heritage of law in Minnesota Check it out!
       Section on the Fillmore County Bar Association, appearing in the History of Fillmore County, Minnesota (published in 1882) (January 1, 1882) (Minnesota Historical Society)
    "At an early day there were few conventionalities or forms to be observed in handling cases in court, and the pleadings were usually of a motley variety, a mixture of logic, of traditional law nomenclature, usually with considerable common sense interlarded with more or less frontier slang. The justices court in particular was often the scene of drolleries and comical incidents of the most mirth provoking character. The line as to who should or should not practice in these courts, was not well defined. But about the year 1860, a Bar Association was formed, at the Court House, with Ruben Wells as President. The scale of prices which were adopted is here reproduced, with the names of the county bar at that time. It will be seen that some of these men now occupy leading positions.

    The Bill Adopted by the Fillmore County Bar, being Minimum Charges:

    For proceedings for plaintiff before notice of trial, including judgment by default$10
    When application to the Court is necessary, or attachment is issued$15
    For proceedings for defendant before notice of trial$7
    For either party after notice of trial and before trial$10
    Trial fee of separate issue of law or fact for plaintiff$15. For defendant $12
    Trial fee of issue of law and fact when tried at the same time for either party$15
    For proceedings for either party when the action has been removed to the Supreme Court before argument$20
    For argument$30
    For making application for, or opposing continuance of cause$5
    On amounts less than $250 -- 25 per cent. to be deducted from the above rates, and over $1, 000 -- 25 per cent. to be added
    For trials of appeals and arguments of certiorari's from justice's courts$10
    For foreclosing mortgages on real estate by proceedings in court on default:
    -- For any sum not over $250$25
    -- For any sum over $250, and not over $500$35
    -- For any sum over $500, and not over $1000$40
    -- For any sum over $1000$50
    -- When defenses made$10 is to be added.
    For foreclosing mortgages on real estate by advertisement:
    -- For any sum not over $200$10
    -- For any sum over $200 and not over $500$15
    -- For any sum over $500$20
    For collections without suit:
    -- For any sum not over $5010 per cent.
    -- For any sum over $50 and not over $1005 per cent.
    -- for any sum over $100 and not over $5002 1/2 per cent.
    And on any sum over $500, 1 per cent. to be added to the above rates.
    For consultation without suit$1
    The above fees are exclusive of disbursements.

    We hereby assent to the foregoing fee bill, and agree to abide thereby. Dated, November 13, 1860.

    Simeon Smith,
    Ruben Wells,
    H. D. Bristol,
    Jones, Willard & Jones,
    Ripley, Wells & Cavanaugh,
    H. A. Billings,
    Henry C. Butler,
    N. P. Colburn,
    J. S. Sawyer,
    J. F. Marsh,
    Dryden Smith.

    The following named lawyers representing constitute the bar of Fillmore County, and will compare favorably as to ability with other counties in the State: J. D. Farmer, Burdett Thayer, Asa B. Burleson, Dryden Smtih, Norman True, George E. Hibner, Spring Valey; Peter McCracken, Cherry Grove; E.C. Boyd, Wycoff; John R. Jones, N. Kingsley, Chatfield; O. Wheaton, Mabel; C.N. Enos, O. S. Berg, Rushford; B. A. Man, E. N. Donaldson, H. G. Day, Lanesboro; Reuben Wells, H. S. Bassett, N. P. Colburn, H. R. Wells, Enos Thompson, A. D. Gates, Preston.

    This list is taken from the court calendar, and it is possible that there may be one or two recently admitted whose names were not on the list."

    Source: History of Fillmore County, Minnesota, pages 305 - 306 (Minnesota Historical Society 1882) (reprinted 1982 by the Fillmore County Historical Society).

    Ed. note: For more about the early Fillmore County Bar Association, its first president, and the Minnesota bar's historical professional protectionist activities, see The Minimum Fee Schedule of the Fillmore County Bar Association with Foreward by Douglas A. Hedin (April 15, 2011).
       University of Minnesota Law School History (University of Minnesota Law School)
       William Mitchell College of Law and Predecessors History (William Mitchell College of Law)
       History of the United States Bankruptcy Court, District of Minnesota by Robert J. Kressel (U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota)
       Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society
    "Dedicated to the collection, preservation and promotion of Minnesota's judicial history through education, memorials, publications and scholarship, with emphasis on the history of the State's highest court."
       Ramsey County District Judge Portraits from the Ramsey County Law Library (Ramsey County Law Library Blog)
    When we added this, portraits and mini-bios included those for Judges Orlando Simons, Hascal Russel Brill, John Willey WIllis, Wescoptt Wilkin, and E.C. Palmer.

    The library has lots more portraits, so more are expected. Check to see which other judges may be included.

       John B. West and other non lawyers who have revolutionized legal research by Paul Lomio (March 12, 2010) (Legal Research Plus)
    Select quotes from Jarvis, Robert M., "John B. West: Founder of the West Publishing Company," 50 American Journal of Legal History 1-22 (2010).

    See Jarvis' complete article for more about John B. West's business career and life after leaving West Publishing, his later views on universal citation, and his 1909 criticism of the West American Digest System. Advocating an "elastic scheme," he wrote, "The classification of today will be as inadequate in the future as the classification of the past is at this time ...."

       Tales from the Minnesota Legal Frontier - The Runaway Juror, It's Not Theft If We All Do It, Corn Field Justice, How to Become a Lawyer in Six Weeks by Hiram F. Stevens (January 1, 1904)
    Stories we found in Hiram F. Stevens, HISTORY OF THE BENCH AND BAR OF MINNESOTA, Vol. II (Minneapolis and St. Paul Legal Publishing and Engraving Company 1904):
    At one of the first claim suits in Hennepin County the jury wrangled over the case for some time, when one of the jurors, growing tired of the matter, jumped from a second story window and ran away. He could not be found, and the proceedings were abandoned.
    It is related that in the early days a worthy magistrate was often observed, after the trial of the case, and before rendering a decision, to repair to a neighboring cornfield as though for serious consideration. A curious citizen, who had noted the magistrate's peculiarity, secreted himself in the field, and was amazed to discover that the justice was there for the purpose of "flipping up" a coin to determine what his decision should be.
    P. P. Cady, of Pipestone, was once compelled to ride 10 miles in the midst of a blizzard to prosecute a man for stealing government timber. Notwithstanding that the guilt of the prisoner seems to have been established beyond a doubt, he was acquitted. Later Mr. Cady discovered that every man on the jury save one had been stealing timber from the same piece of land.
    Judge Flandreau: In the beginning of the settlement of the Minnesota Valley, in the early fifties, a man named Tom Cowan located at Traverse des Sioux. … There being no lawyer but one at Traverse des Sioux, and I having been elected to the supreme bench, Mr. Cowan decided to study law and open an office for the practice of that profession. He accordingly proposed that he should study with me, which idea I strongly encouraged, and after about six weeks of diligent reading, principally devoted to the statutes, I admitted him to the bar and he fearlessly announced himself as an attorney and counselor at law. In this venture he was phenomenally successful. He was a fine speaker, made an excellent argument on facts, and soon stood high in his profession. He took a leading part in politics, was made register of deeds of his County, went to the legislature, and was nominated for lieutenant governor of the state after its admission to the union; but of course, in all his practice he was never quite certain about the law of his cases. This deficiency was made up by dash and brilliancy and he got along swimmingly.
    You can find this book scanned in Google Books.
       Moving the Sessions Laws (March 27, 2012) (Minnesota History Center)
    Video about transfer of 500 volumes of Minnesota session laws from the Minnesota Office of Secretary of State to the Minnesota Historical Society.
       The Annals of Legal Ethics - When Solicitation was Tolerated and Widespread by William Wernz (February 1, 2013) (Minnesota Lawyering)
    "Who knew that, from approximately 1900 to 1933, Minnesota was a national center of railway injury litigation, fueled by the absence of restraints on Minnesota lawyers' solicitations of cases?"

    See also:
  • Minnesota History
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