Report: Court changes to improve service, save money


The State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) is recommending that the Michigan Legislature eliminate four judgeships by attrition, reverse two judgeships pending elimination, convert a district judgeship to a circuit judgeship and allow two sets of district courts to merge.

The net result of the recommendations, contained in the SCAO’s biennial Judicial Resources Recommendations report, will be a reduction of two trial court judgeships statewide.

The SCAO is recommending :

• Elimination through attrition of two district judgeships in 36th District Court in Detroit.

• Creation of a probate court district of Houghton and Keweenaw Counties and the elimination through attrition of the Keweenaw County Probate Court judgeship. As an alternative, the SCAO recommends the reduction through attrition of one district judgeship.

• Elimination through attrition of one circuit judgeship in Saginaw County.

• Cancellation of the scheduled elimination of a judgeship through attrition in 44th District court, which covers the cities of Royal Oak and Berkley.

• Cancellation of the scheduled elimination of a judgeship through attrition in 29th Circuit Court, which covers Clinton and Gratiot Counties.

• Elimination of one district judgeship in 53rd District Court in Livingston County on Dec. 31, 2018 and the creation of one Livingston County circuit judgeship on Jan. 1, 2019.

• That the governing bodies of the cities of Westland and Wayne approve by resolution the consolidation of the 18th and 29th district courts while retaining all three judgeships.

• That the governing bodies of the cities of Eastpointe, Roseville and Fraser approve by resolution the consolidation of the 38th and 39th district courts, retaining all four judgeships. As an alternative, the SCAO recommends that the courts enter into a concurrent jurisdiction plan to balance the workload between the two courts.

These recommendations build on major steps to reengineer Michigan’s judiciary that were accomplished based on previous reports.

As a result, 31 judgeships have already been eliminated with 14 more slated for reduction.

After accounting for the addition of five judges, the total net reduction is 40 seats, saving taxpayers $19.5 million from 2011 through the end of this year, according to court officials.

Based on reductions already implemented, additional savings are more than $4.7 million annually. If enacted, the recommended reductions will save an additional $316,880 each year.

“Michigan’s judiciary is focused on being fair and accessible to litigants while being prudent and cost effective with tax dollars,” said State Court Administrator Milton L. Mack Jr. “I urge the Legislature to adopt these recommendations so that our judiciary can continue increasing efficiency while improving service to the public.”

Gov. Rick Snider said evaluating the judicial system and identifying ways to make it more efficient “is critically important and I thank the State Court Administrative Office for their work to develop this report.”

“Ensuring the ongoing integrity of Michigan’s judiciary while making the most of taxpayer dollars is essential in our work to provide quality legal services to all Michiganders,” he said. “I look forward to reviewing these recommendations and working with my partners in the Legislature as we continue to balance Michigan’s judiciary.”

The recommendations are based on a detailed two-step analysis that first examines each court’s caseload followed by an extended consideration of local factors, such as population trends and travel between court locations.

The report’s methodology was developed by the National Center for State Courts and the Judicial Resources Advisory Committee.