Legal Memorandum: Impact of Joint Powers Act on Counties in MN and ND

Issue: How does the Minnesota Joint Powers Act affect counties in Minnesota and North Dakota?

Area of Law: Government Contracting, Municipal, County and Local Law
Keywords: Counties; Joint powers agreement
Jurisdiction: Minnesota, North Dakota
Cited Cases: 658 N.W.2d 598
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. Sec. 471.59
Date: 05/01/2014

The case law construing the Minnesota Joint Powers Act dictates how counties relate to each other.  In County of Martin v. Minnesota Counties Ins. Trust, 658 N.W.2d 598 (Minn. Ct. App. 2003), the Court was asked to determine how the counties related to each other within the Joint Powers Agreement.  In their analysis, the Court looked to In re Greater Morrison Sanitary Landfill, 435 N.W.2d 92 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989).  In that case, the court had previously explained

[i]t is not clear whether a separate legal entity is created when governmental units act pursuant to the Joint Exercise of Powers Act, Minn. Stat. Sec. 471.59. Neither is it clear, if an entity indeed is created, whether that entity has the attributes of a corporation or partnership, or is simply an agent acting on behalf of the principal member governmental units.


. . . .


We believe that the entity, if any, created through the joint exercise of powers is in the nature of a hybrid, potentially possessing attributes of all the aforementioned legal relationships. The precise nature of any one such entity, however, must be determined on a case by case basis upon a thorough analysis of the purpose for and responsibilities of the entity.

Id. at 96 (citations omitted).

The County of Martin Court recited the court’s rationale in Greater Morrison Sanitary Landfill, that provided “[t]he […]

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