Last updated: October 14, 2013
Think back to the lake scene in the movie "Purple Rain." You know the one. It's almost sunset when Apollonia asks the Kid (aka Prince) what she must do in order earn the Kid's help as an artist. He tells her that she must "purify" herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. At first Apollonia doesn't believe it, but she's desperate, so she removes her rock star getup and jumps into the lake. She stumbles out of the brisk water, choking, looking angry with the world. And the Kid tells her: "Uh ... hold it. That ain't Lake Minnetonka."
Now imagine a legal aid worker saying, "You must file your claim in the clerk's office of the Hennepin County Government Center." Don't be like Apollonia, rushing off to the nearest government building just because you're desperate. Instead, read this guide to the Twin Cities' courthouses. There are fifteen courthouses in the region. While fifteen is fewer in number than the thousand lakes, you can see how someone might get confused. This guide will provide the locations for the courthouses, a brief description of what they do, and some helpful tips.
This court's website has most of the information you'll need, including a Skyway map that shows all of the major parking structures, landmarks, highways, and Skyway routes in the area.
Again, check the downtown Minneapolis Skyway map for nearby parking, and a head's up on the tricky one-way streets. There's no need to leave the building for lunch. You can build your own giant bowl of stir fry down in the Federal Cafe. Minneapolis has great food, but the government cafeteria can hold its own.
This building holds both the Minnesota Court of appeals and the State Supreme Court. Most likely, if you're at the appellate stage in your litigation, you're already pretty savvy navigating through the government neighborhood. FYI, don't bother looking for the metered parking. Even if you find it, the rate is the same on the street as it is in the Centennial Ramp across the street. If you go to the structure, you won't have to return in two hours with more quarters.
This is where you file papers in civil matters. This facility handles small claims, probate, family law, housing, and other civil law matters. Park at the City Hall Annex on the other side of E. 4th Street or at one of the structures on St. Peter Street or N. Wabasha. The building is so close to the Federal Building, you should use the Skyway map (see above) if you have any question of what to see or where to eat while you're hanging out in the city.
The Law Enforcement Center holds conducts criminal law proceedings. It also houses pre-trial detainees and law enforcement operations. Be prepared for tight security.
This court is on the same general site of the Maplewood City Hall and Community Center. It serves civil and criminal court functions. This remote location is easily accessible for drivers in Ramsey County. There's lots of recreation and entertainment at the community center. This could be the most fun you ever have on a court day.
This court primarily handles delinquency matters for persons under age 19. It also deals with child protection and adoptions. There's a unit attached for housing juveniles currently being detained. It is located in downtown St. Paul. Again, see the Skyway map.
This facility handles both Civil Court and Criminal Court matters. It also holds Probate and Mental Health Court proceedings in specialized departments on floors C4 and C5. The security station in C-Tower nearest the courts is often busy. It might be faster to go through security in the A-Tower and then walk to C-Tower on one of the bridge floors.
This court is located in the City Hall building. It is for small claims. Generally, plaintiffs must be seeking no more than $10,000. You may want to visit the Legal Advice Clinic for free advice concerning Conciliation Court matters. The service is for those with low incomes. The clinic is open Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:00-11:00 and 1:00-3:00.
The Public Safety Facility is a law enforcement building. It holds a jail facility and administrative offices in addition to the courts. Like the city's other courts, it is located down town. There are plenty of nearby ramps for parking.
Parking is free at this location. Not just a courthouse, this service center handles many other Hennepin County administrative functions. See the county's website for a complete list of services and for the option to make an appointment.
Like the other suburban service centers, the Ridgedale Service Center offers a wide range of services, but they are not exactly the same as in Brookdale and Southdale. The courthouse features Criminal Court, Division 3.
The Southdale Service Center features Criminal Court, Division 4 and several administrative offices. Arrive early because there are no guarantees of receiving services at the end of the day, simply because you were in the building on time. Free parking on site.
This court is surrounded by other family law services including the Hennepin County Child Support and Economic Assistance offices. There's a parking ramp conveniently located across the street.
Count on busy one-way streets and little street parking. Use the ramp on the other side of 6th Street. Vikings fans will notice that this facility is two blocks from the Metrodome. Still, don't wear an Adrian Peterson jersey to court (that goes double for a Brett Favre jersey). See the court's guidelines on dress code, behavior, and children's attendance.