Minnesota’s Federal Court

Federal Courthouse, Minneapolis
Courtroom, Federal Courthouse, Minneapolis

The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota is the federal court in the State. It and the 93 other U.S. district courts are the trial courts of the federal court system. Within limits set by Congress and the Constitution, the district courts have jurisdiction to hear nearly all categories of federal cases, including both civil and criminal matters.[1]

The Minnesota federal court has four federal courthouses in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Duluth and Fergus Falls although the last one does not have any regularly assigned federal judges.[2]

The Minnesota court has seven judgeships authorized by federal statutes. There are 670 other such federal district court judgeships in the U.S. All of the people who hold these judgeships are appointed for life by the President of the U.S. after advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.[3] They exercise the full powers of the district courts.

Five of the seven U.S. District Judges for the Minnesota court have their chambers at the Minneapolis federal courthouse; they are Joan N. Ericksen, Michael J. Davis, John R. Tunheim, Patrick J. Schiltz and Ann D. Montgomery. In the St. Paul federal courthouse they are Donovan W. Frank and Susan Richard Nelson. They are joined by four Senior U.S. District Judges, who also continue to take cases: Donald D. Alsop, Paul A. Magnuson and Richard H. Kyle in St. Paul and David S. Doty in Minneapolis.[4]

The Court also has nine United States Magistrate Judges, who are appointed by the Judges of the U.S. District Court for a term of eight years and who are eligible for reappointment to successive terms. The Magistrate Judges at the U. S. District Court in St. Paul are Janie S. Mayerson, Jeanne J. Graham, Jeffrey J. Keyes and Tony N. Leung; at the Minneapolis federal courthouse they are Arthur J. Boylan (Senior Magistrate Judge), Franklin L. Noel and Steven F. Rau. Leo J. Brisbois serves in the Duluth federal courthouse; and Mary Kay Klein is part-time in Bemidji.[5] The magistrate judges have more limited roles then the judges and may try cases only with the consent of the parties.[6]

In 1986 the District Court appointed District Judge Diana E. Murphy and me as co-chairs of the Bicentennial of the Constitution Committee for the District of Minnesota. We produced a history of the Court and sponsored and organized a seminar on constitutional law, a lecture and discussion on “Religion and the Constitution” and videotaped interviews of the sitting judges.[7]

[1] United States Courts, District courts, http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/; 28 U.S.C. ch. 85 (jurisdiction). The more populous states have more than one federal district court. For example, the State of New York has four: Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Districts. (28 U.S.C. § 112.)

[2] U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Minn., Courthouses, http://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/Courthouses.shtml.

[3] U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Minn., Judges, http://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/judges.shtml; United States Courts, Federal Judgeships, http://www.uscourts.gov/JudgesAndJudgeships/.

[4]  Id.

[5]  Id.

[6] 28 U.S.C. ch.43.

[7]  Murphy & Krohnke, The Minnesota Federal Court Embarks on Bicentennial Projects, Hennepin Lawyer, May-June 1987 at 10; History of the U.S. Court for the District of Minnesota (1989),   http://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/History. Since October 1994, Judge Murphy has been a U.S. Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which handles appeals from the Minnesota federal court as well as the federal district courts in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and Arkansas. (Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges, http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/newcoa/judge.htm; 28 U.S.C. § 41; 28 U.S.C. ch. 83.) Appeals from the Eighth Circuit go to the U.S. Supreme Court when the latter agrees to take the case. (28 U.S.C. § 1254.)

Published by


As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

4 thoughts on “Minnesota’s Federal Court”

Leave a Reply