The Minnesota State Court system consists of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the District Courts, the Workers Compensation Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Tax Court.
The District Court is the primary trial court throughout the state. It is organized into 10 districts, of which the 4th Judicial District (Hennepin County District Court) is the largest. It is one of only two judicial districts that are made up of a single county; Ramsey County District Court is the other. Of the 257 judges serving in the District Courts, 61 judges are assigned to Hennepin County. Hennepin County District court serves the public in four locations: Downtown, Brookdale, Ridgedale and Southdale.
The Hennepin County District Court is divided into several blocks, in which judges serve for varying amounts of time. Those areas are Civil, Criminal, Conciliation, Family, Housing, Probate/Mental Health, Drug Court and Juvenile Court. The Drug, Family, Housing, Juvenile and Probate/Mental Health Courts also have referees. A referee is a judicial officer to whom a pending case in district court is referred to take testimony, hear the parties and report to the court. Typically, referees have jurisdiction to dispose of non-contested cases.
Judges are assigned to each of the divisions by the chief judge. Typically, a judge will preside for about two years for a particular assignment, although this may vary, depending on the needs of the court. Most judges have both civil and criminal blocks of cases. Each judge’s page on this Web site lists the judge’s past and current assignments.
Judges begin serving on the bench after being appointed or elected. Officially Minnesota judges are elected by the people. In actual fact, also by provision of the state constitution, most district court judges are appointed by the governor when a vacancy occurs; only rarely is a new member of the bench elected through a contested election without a prior appointment. Each newly appointed judge serves until the next general election occurring more than one year after the initial appointment, and then must stand for election. After being elected, each judge serves for a six-year term. Other judicial candidates may challenge an incumbent judge for the judgeship. There are no limits on the number of times a person may run for judicial office.
For more on judicial elections: read answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Read more on Hennepin County District Court's Specialty Courts.