Sam Hanson

Of Counsel Minneapolis
Contact Info


Sam is a member of Taft's Commercial Litigation, Energy and Appellate practices. After serving on the Minnesota Court of Appeals for two years and the Minnesota Supreme Court for five years, he rejoined Taft. Sam is a former president, managing partner and vice president of Briggs and Morgan, as well as former head of the Litigation practice and a former member of the firm's board of directors. 

Sam practices principally in the areas of:

  • Arbitration and mediation
  • Complex civil litigation
  • Appellate law
  • Public utility regulation

Sam's representative cases include: 

  • Davies v. Waterstone Capital Management, LP, 856 N.W.2d 711 (Minn. Ct. App. 2015) (further review denied, Minnesota Supreme Court; cert. denied U.S. Supreme Court); successfully reversed district court decision and vacated arbitration award of $11 million arising from the termination of a high performing trader for our hedge fund client.
  • In Re Estate of Boyd, 2016 WL76444 (Minn. Ct. App. 2016); successfully reversed district court decision dismissing stepson’s objections to stepfather’s will, which did not honor the deceased mother’s wishes that her husband devise her previously separate property to her son after her husband’s death.
  • Dew Corporation v. Mathwig Development Co., 2010 WL1541294, (Minn. Ct. App. 2010); successfully reversed district court decision and established priority of $32 million dollar mortgage lien against $8 million dollar mechanics lien for condominium development project.
  • In re denial of variance granted to Robert W. Hubbard, 778 N.W.2d 313 (Minn. 2010); successfully argued that DNR lacked statutory authority to deny certification of variance granted by municipality for construction on the St. Croix River.
  • Interstate Power Co. v. Nobles Cty. Bd., 617 N.W.2d 566 (Minn. 2000); successfully overturned attempt of County Board to prevent utility’s upgrade to existing transmission lines by amending county’s zoning ordinance to change set-back requirements.
  • Northern States Power Co., Arbitration (1999); successfully defeated $50 million claim by Manitoba Hydro Electric Company for additional fees under an electric power agreement.

Sam practiced law with the firm for 34 years before he was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2000. He has had extensive experience in both the state and federal courts in Minnesota, as well as courts in many other states in the region. He has worked closely with several major corporate clients, including telephone, gas and electric utilities; insurance companies; financial institutions; and multinational manufacturing and service corporations.


  • Winner, David Graven Public Service Award, Minnesota State Bar Association (2014)

  • Recipient, Distinguished Alumni Award, St. Olaf College (2012)

  • Attorney of the Year, Minnesota Lawyer (2011, 2017)

  • Fellow, American Academy of Appellate Lawyers (2009)

  • Recipient, Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree (2008)
    Recipient, Hon. Ronald E. Hachey Outstanding Alumni Award (2002)
    Recipient, Distinguished Alumni Award (1995)
    William Mitchell College of Law

  • Recipient, Professional Excellence Award, Minnesota State Bar Association (2008)

  • Honoree, Super Lawyers, Business Litigation

  • Recipient, Outstanding Service to the Profession Award, Minnesota Lawyer (2007)

  • Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers (1982)

  • Advocate, American Board of Trial Advocates (1993)

  • Public Service Award, Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association (1991)

  • Litigation Star Honoree, Appellate Law, Benchmark Litigation

  • Honoree, Best Lawyers in AmericaAppellate Practice; Commercial Litigation; Bet-the-Company Litigation, (2009-present)

  • Senior Statesmen Honoree and Appellate Law Honoree, Chambers USA

  • North Star Lawyer, Minnesota State Bar Association

All Service Areas


  • William Mitchell College of Law (1965)

    LL.B., cum laude, with honors

  • St. Olaf College (1961)


  • State - Minnesota
  • Federal - U.S. Supreme Court
  • Federal - 8th Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Federal - District of Nebraska

Notable Matters

  • Bearder v. State (privacy of genetic information) - Minnesota Supreme Court held that state privacy act restricts collection, use, storage and dissemination of blood samples collected pursuant to newborn screening statutes.
  • Glorvigen v. Cirrus Design Corp. (product liability, scope of duty to warn)
  • In re Hubbard (administrative law, reversing agency's decision) - Minnesota Supreme Court limited agency rulemaking by holding that rules adopted by the Department of Natural Resources were invalid.
  • Medical Staff of Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center v. Avera Marshall (amicus representation on appeal - enforceability of hospital by-laws)
  • United Prairie Bank-Mountain Lake v. Haugen Nutrition & Equipment (attorneys’ fee award arising from contract)
  • Whitaker v. 3M Co. (amicus representation - class action certification)
  • Obtained $20 million judgment against mining company for power company following trial.
  • Represented business owner in stockholder dispute litigation involving total disposition of company's assets and successful collection after opposing party declared bankruptcy.
  • Represented electric utilities in ratemaking proceedings before state public utilities commissions and public service commissions.
  • Represented electric utility in appeal of a rate case order to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and Minnesota Supreme Court.
  • Represented multiple Fortune 500 companies as amici curiae before the Minnesota Court of Appeals in age discrimination class action.

Speeches and Publications

  • 2009-04-01, "The Next Big Step: Appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court," Bench & Bar of Minnesota
  • 2006-01-01, "Forward, Recent Decisions of the Minnesota Supreme Court," 32 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 1261

Professional Affiliations

  • Federal Magistrate Judge Merit Selection Panel

    Co-Chair (2014)

  • Minnesota Board of Public Defense

    Board Member

  • Minnesota Supreme Court

    Co-Chair, Children’s Justice Initiative, Advisory Committee (2005-2007)
    Member, Legal Services State Planning Committee, Lawyers Trust Account
    Member, Board and Legal Services Advisory Committee (2005-2007)
    Chair, Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure (2002-2005)
    Chair, Gender Fairness Implementation Committee (2002-2005)
    Member, Board of Legal Certification (2002-2005)
    Co-Chair, Legal Services State Planning Commission (2002-2005)
    Member, Advisory Committee on the General Rules of Practice (2002-2005)
    Member, Board of Law Examiners (1995-2002)
    Member, Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure (1984-1990, 1997-2000)

  • Minnesota State Bar Association

    Co-Chair, Task Force on the Future of Legal Education (2014-Present)
    Founder and Former Chair, Public Utilities Section (1994–Present)
    Co-Chair, Women and the Law Committee (1994–1997)

  • National Conference of Bar Examiners

    Director (2001-2010)
    Chair (2009)
    Vice Chair (2008)
    Secretary (2007)

  • Minnesota Advocates For Human Rights

    Director and Member of Executive Committee (1999-2010)

  • United States District Court for the District of Minnesota

    Member, Civil Justice Reform Act Advisory Committee (1995-1998)

  • William Mitchell College of Law Board of Trustees

    Director (1995-2006)
    Chair (2002-2004)
    Vice Chair (2000-2002)
    Secretary (1998-2000)

  • Rural Technology Partnership

    Director (1987-1997)

Community Involvement

  • Global Volunteers

    Co-Founder and Director (1983-2010)

  • Crossroads Adoption Services

    Director (1984-2002)

  • Institute of Cultural Affairs

    Director (1988-1996)

  • Rural Ventures, Inc.

    Director (1981-1987)